November 20th, 2008
12:00 PM ET
10 years ago

Waxman defeats Dingell for House Energy Chairmanship

Waxman defeated Dingell for a powerful committee post.

Waxman defeated Dingell for a powerful committee post.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - California Rep. Henry Waxman won the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday, defeating the longtime chairman, John Dingell of Michigan, in a secret ballot vote of the incoming Democratic caucus.

Waxman - first elected to the House in 1974 - defeated Dingell - first elected in 1955 - by a vote of 137 to 122. Dingell has served as the Energy and Commerce Committee's top Democrat for the past 28 years. Waxman was the committee's No. 2 ranking Democrat.

"It was a contentious race, and it was a close one as well," Waxmam said immediately following the vote. "I want to point out... that this in no way diminishes the enormous contribution to our country by Chairman John Dingell." Waxman, a top ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, argued that "we needed a change for the committee to have the leadership that will work with this administration... in order to get important issues passed in health care, environmental protection and energy policy."

Regarding Dingell's long tenure in the House and on the committee, Waxman said, "seniority is important, but it should not be a grant of property rights to be chairman for three decades or more."

Waxman's victory over Dingell is viewed as a victory for the more liberal wing of the House Democratic caucus. Dingell, the dean of the Michigan delegation, is fiercely protective of the interests of his home state's struggling automobile industry.

He is also often viewed as hostile to much of the Democratic party's environmental agenda. Waxman, on the other hand, is seen as a strong advocate of tougher environmental regulations.

"Chairman Waxman has been a longtime longtime leader on energy and environmental issues," Gene Karpinski, head of the progressive League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement following the vote.

"We look forward to working with the new Chairman... to promote the clean, renewable energy future that will repower, refuel, and rebuild America."

The Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to play a pivotal role in the consideration of President-elect Obama's ambitious legislative agenda next year. Climate change, energy independence, and health-care reform - all issues considered to be at or near the top of Obama's agenda - all fall under the purview of the committee.

While Obama did not publicly indicate a preference for the chairmanship of the committee, his chief legislative liaison, Phil Schiliro, is a former longtime aide to Waxman.

Dingell has agreed to serve as "Chairman Emeritus" of the committee - a ceremonial title created at Pelosi's suggestion to honor his long service on the committee.

Dingell was elected to his 27th full term earlier this month. He will become the longest serving House member in history in February.

Filed under: Henry Waxman
soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. Felix, SC

    Regarding Huckabee:

    This man should have never been governor. He should have only been a mayor. He's folksy and not funny, he's allergic to minorities and he will run the country by the bible, not the Constitution.

    In my opinion he is the male Sarah Palin–who is a boil on the butt of America.

    November 20, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. Stevens Is A Jokester

    Regarding Steven:

    Hang em high.

    November 20, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  3. Sian

    I wonder how much influence Rep. Dingell's close ties tp Gm influenced this turn of power. Change ia all around us. Lets hope that this is the first in a long line of reorganization that we will see in the coming weeks and years. Beyond that it's unfortunate, almost underhanded, that henry Waxman decided to mount his power struggle at a time when Rep. Dingell must be focused on his health and his family.

    November 20, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  4. Doug

    Go Waxman !!

    November 20, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  5. Karen - Missouri

    It's about time for some changes! Congratulations to Waxman.

    November 20, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. Endorsed!

    With a nose like his; Waxman will defeat any body – all he has to do is take a deep breath and his competetors will be gasping for air. Little wonder why the man is effective at interrogating erring clowns that appear before his committee.

    Congratulation Congressman Waxman; you have my support. But that nose... is to be revered.

    November 20, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  7. Ken

    Even the [R]-like [D]s are losing! Thank God! Let's take our environment back, along with our country!

    November 20, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  8. MD, TX

    The radical left is taking hold. Depression on its way.

    November 20, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. recycle washington

    Obama u fooled me........

    so much for new ideas/new people.........

    i wish i never voted for u Obama..........................

    CHange=============>> Clintons again

    November 20, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  10. Tim in NC

    Waxman vs Dingell...

    Is this congress or some bad comedy? Oh wait, can someone tell me what the difference is?

    November 20, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  11. Brad

    Dingell had been the immovable object standing in the way of any meaningful reforms or progress with the automakers. The Big 3 and their cronies just wanted to make money, be protected from the consequences of their own actions, have no one tell them what to do and Dingell always protected the status quo....good riddance!

    November 20, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Greed is not good

    Good move...Waxman has more integrity and less inclined to listen to the big $ influence-peddlers / lobbyists.

    November 20, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  13. Matt

    Buh Bye Dingellberries!

    November 20, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  14. go gettem, waxman!

    We have our full confidence in you, Waxman!

    we have your back covered!

    November 20, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  15. mitch murray

    Congratulations to Waxman!
    A better choice could not be made.
    I wish him luck, and a positive policy towards CHANGE.
    It may take years, but I remain hopeful the it can be done.

    Mitch in CT.

    November 20, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. Bridget

    This is awesome news. Rep. Waxman is one of the few truly proactive members of Congress and gets things done.

    November 20, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. Sue

    What bothers me is that he's close to Pelosi, who totally ignores the wishes of the people to hold Bush accountable-we voted in the Dems two years ago to impeach Bush, and she and Waxman refuse. Dingell, at least, stands up for the working man.

    November 20, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  18. Norm

    He must've just beat him by a nose!

    November 20, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  19. Chris

    Time for a change. Dingell doesn't look so good lately, anyway. Ever since he got the joint replacement, he looks and sounds like 'death warmed over.' Why do these politicians insist on serving for life? He and his wife are multi-millionares. Retire and enjoy the time you have left. Kind of arrogant of you to think the House can't do without you....

    November 20, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. Patrick Story

    Dingell has been standing in the way of progress for way too long, and he bears some of the responsibility for the coming collapse of the big three auto companies. Without his deadening hand at the head of the committee, the big three would have been forced to create better, more efficient cars years ago. I just hope Dingell's last act is not to push through a bailout of the companies. What is needed now is either bankruptcy or nationalization, preferably the latter.

    November 20, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. David, Silver Spring, MD

    What this committee really needs is someone who has no allegiance to the auto industry and its disdain for energy efficiency in autos.

    Maybe Waxman can help drive increases in fuel efficiency standards.

    November 20, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. rich

    Any congress person who has the America public best interest at heart is one I wholeheartedly support. Congressman Waxman is one of those congress person, and I congratulate him, and look forward to his efforts to help the new administration bring about the much needed talked about change in the country.

    November 20, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. TJ Johnson

    The liberals are about to screw over this great country - reduce us to European-style.

    November 20, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. JB

    Adios enabler – welcome change!

    November 20, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. Adam

    Waxman is a disgrace. His Stalinist show trials are the reason why CONGRESS IS AT A 9% approval rating

    November 20, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
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