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

Waxman defeats Dingell for House Energy Chairmanship

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Bob in Franklin, TN

    Great! We need more focus on energy and the environment after eight years of trashing our country under the failed Bushy policies.

    November 20, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  2. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    President Obama is getting his people in place!

    November 20, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  3. Ralph Il

    Well it appears to me that Dingell has presided over the committee on energy through all the energy shortages. The problems still exist.

    Maybe we need someone who actually wants to solve the problems.

    November 20, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  4. waxman fan

    Excellent news. Waxman is smart, honest, and progressive. We need more Congressmen like him.

    November 20, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  5. Latina-Indepedent-4-OBAMA


    Before you continue to throw stones at President-elect Obama, take a good look at the last EIGHT YEARS of a Republican presidency and tell us.... please...... how Bush/Cheney were a success??????????

    November 20, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  6. Greed is not good

    You got that right Neo-Cons...the Liberals ARE taking over and on the verge of Super Majority.

    Get use to it because you got a fat slice of humble pie in the election and the Neo-Con ideology is dying.

    November 20, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  7. Em

    To Demwit and others-

    For those that are deluded and think it's Obama's fault that the Dow has dropped so far- you could not be more wrong. It's so sad when people who are completely ignorant of economics and markets try to seem intelligent by making ridiculous statements

    The market is reacting to increasingly bleak economic conditions, (brought to a fine point by the Fed outlook) due to the auto makers' collapse, the continuing credit crunch, the horrible housing market, the possibility of deflation, the worldwide slowdown, the precipitous consumer spending slowdown, etc etc etc. To blame Obama really is ignorant, and once again tries to deflect blame away from what caused the problem, and how to fix it.

    November 20, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  8. Hal, Redondo Beach, CA

    A step in the right direction. Dingell has always been to beholden to the auto industry and other big interests. He repeatedly stood in the way of higher fuel efficiancy and safety standards. He has also had a record of backing poorly thought out policies in other areas. Dingell is alright but, the time has come for the narrow interests of local constituencies and lobbies to end. Our country needs a plan that is broader than people like Dingell are able to effectively advocate. Waxman has shown time and again that he is more interested in doing the right thing instead of the politically expediant thing.

    November 20, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  9. CIE

    Henry Waxman is an egotist and idiot. It won't be long and this country will be run by California and the far left. My only hope is that Charlie Rangel is next on Pelosi's hit list.

    November 20, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  10. mad

    god help me he looks like batboy

    November 20, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  11. MD, TX


    World economic powerhouse in 4 years: China
    US inflation in 4 years: 14.5%
    US unemployment in 4 years: 11%
    Gasoline $/gallon in 4 years: $5.25
    Bbl of oil: $325
    Top income tax rate in 4 years: 55%
    Adjusted gross annual income to reach top rate: $125,000 (single)
    Percent of Americans without health insurance in 4 years: 48%

    That is my prediction of the US after a Pelosi / Reid / Obama administration.

    November 20, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  12. A Kickin' Donkey

    Now Perform Henry ... and I don't just mean hold hearings where you pretend to be smarter than everyone else.

    Accomplish some REAL WORK ...

    November 20, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. Richard Rohde

    Another nice "non-partisan" choice Hussein has made. This is the same bunch that produced Rostenkowski and Harold Ford Sr., William Jefferson and a whole lot more. The next four will be an awful lot of fun.

    November 20, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Matt

    Trust me Zenter...Exxon has already made record profits WHILE DEMAND WAS FALLING...or were you even awake for the past 8 months? If nobody sees a fundamental problem with the fact that prices went sky high, demand shrank substantially, yet Exxon still was able to post a record profit margin 2 quarters in a row, then there is NO HELP FOR YOU. That's not how it is "supposed" to work. When demand shrinks, the ideological response is to lower prices. This is precisely why all this blabber from Chicago School of Economics morons need to wake up and realize the ideological marketplace does not exist. The trickle-down policies of the past 50 years have set up a fundamental imbalance in the power demand-side and supply-side are capable of exerting over the economy. This is why there is no economic gravity: what goes up, don't come down.

    November 20, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  15. Matt

    @ demwit

    You obviously don't understand the economy and should not talk about it. Nothing is going to stop this recession, no matter who got elected. The best we can hope for is that Congress pull sits proverbial head out of its butt and works the bailout money in a proper fashion...punishing mercilessly companies like AIG and the Big 3 for traipsing around town spending whimsically...and that Obama (or whoever got elected) is able to set some policies in place that soften the impact it is UNAVOIDABLY going to have on Main Street.

    November 20, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  16. Matt

    @ Richard Rhode

    One word: RACIST.

    November 20, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  17. Ricardo

    This is Great news.!

    Congressman John Dingell, in his role as front man for the big three auto makers, has done more to harm America's air quaility, and the environment, than almost any other member of the House of Representatives.

    For decades,as the FORMER chair of this powerful committee, Dingell's single handed opposition to reasonable increases in auto fuel efficiency standards has allowed the Big Three auto makers to ignore their gas guzzling product's contribution to the increase of global warming.

    The false claim that jobs would be eliminated by the production of cleaner and more fuel efficient autos and trucks has now been debunked by the realities of today's market place. The opposite is proven true.

    Goodbye and good riddance to John Dingell

    November 20, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  18. nom deplume

    If you haven't sold your oil company stocks yet, I think it is time before they become nationalized.

    November 20, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  19. FoolKiller


    Please look at the time.
    (whisper: you missed your meds)

    November 20, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  20. Ann,

    When he took control of the committee he is in now after the dems got control two years ago, can anyone tell me one thing that came out of all the investigations he held for show where apparently results have been non existent? For 2 years he investigated everything and what has come out of it? Nothing!

    November 20, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  21. paul (staunch Moderate)

    Waxman now needs to get newly elected congressperson Dina Titus on that committee. She is extremely well versed in energy issues and could truly educate the rest of the committee.

    November 20, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  22. hilary


    November 20, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
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