In terms of personnel moves in the administration, it's a bit opaque as to what's going on. But in terms of committees and Congress, the personnel changes translate directly into policy, which makes the fight between progressive Henry Waxman and the union conservative John Dingell over the Chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce committee so consequential.
The E&C committee is one of the big three committees in the House - the Ways and Means committee, which handles tax issues, and the Appropriations Committee, which handles spending, are the others. E&C regulates health care, the internet and telecom (including net neutrality), trade, media policy, energy, consumer protections, and climate change, and is sort of the honeypot for corporate interests and lobbying. Waxman is making a major play to take the committee leadership away from Dingell because Dingell, who is from Michigan and represents the auto industry, is basically refusing to get serious on climate change legislation.
|John Dingell, as per the usual rules of seniority, is the Chairman of the committee. Though he has recently admitted climate change exists, he's done so grudgingly, and put forward wholly inadequate plans to cap greenhouse gas emissions along with his coal-state colleague, Rick Boucher. Pelosi considers climate change a national emergency, and so tried to undermine Dingell in 2006 by creating a select committee on global warming without legislative authority headed by his former protege, Ed Markey of Massachusetts. Dingell had a number of unkind words about that committee, like "We should probably name it the committee on world travel and junkets", ""We're just empowering a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs to go around and make speeches and make commitments that will be very difficult to honor", and "I'm unaware of anything they will do that will be of any value."
It was a gutsy move by Pelosi, but she didn't have enough votes to make it stick. But there are 20 more Democrats in the House now, 6-9 more Senators, a clean energy President, and fewer and fewer denialist oil patch Democrats, so the move to clean energy is increasingly political important. The second most senior member on the committee, Henry Waxman, is trying to take over and modernize the leadership of the policy-making body. Waxman is a progressive green jobs kind of legislator, who shepherded the Clean Air Act through in the early 1990s, and is now sponsoring the Safe Climate Act to cut greenhouse gas emissions qutie aggressively. This is actually the renewal of an old fight; Dingell cut out Waxman in 1992, when Waxman first tried to get a climate bill through Congress.
Dingell's response has been to go on right-wing radio and call Waxman an "anti-manufacturing left-wing Democrat". He also is calling upon the Blue Dogs and New Democrats to back him in a grand unity caucus of climate denialists.
Facing the prospect of a liberal surge in House Democratic senior ranks, party moderates in the Blue Dog and New Democrats coalitions are banding together to make sure centrist lawmakers prevail in two critical internal fights.
Dingell has announced his full whip team, which has some Blue Dogs, oil patch Dems, and surprising progressives.
Co-Chairmen Chet Edwards (TX-17), a Member of the Budget and Appropriations Committees, and Bart Stupak (MI-01), the Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee;
· Robert E. Andrews (NJ-1)
· John Barrow (GA-12), a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce;
· Rick Boucher (VA-9), the Chairman of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee;
· Allen Boyd (FL-2)
· Michael F. Doyle (PA-14), a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce;
· Kirsten E. Gillibrand (NY-20)
· Charles A. Gonzalez (TX-20), a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce
· Bart Gordon (D-TN), Chairman of the Committee on Science;
· Gene Green (TX-29), the Chairman of the Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee;
· Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (SD)
· Baron P. Hill (IN-09), a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce;
· Jim Matheson (D-UT), a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce;
· Charlie Melancon (LA-03), a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce;
· Gary Peters (MI-9), a newly elected member of the House of Representatives
· Collin C. Peterson (MN-7)
· Mike Ross (AR-04), a member of the Energy and Commerce and a co-chair of the Blue Dog Caucus;
· Mark Schauer (MI-7 ), a newly elected member
· Health Shuler (NC-11)
· John S. Tanner (TN-8)
· Ellen O. Tauscher (CA-10), a member of the New Democratic Caucus;
· Edolphus Towns (NY-10), a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Congressional Black Caucus
Bobby Rush (D-Ill.)
Update - Reps. Jesse Jackson, Jr., (D-Ill.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) are also members of the Dingell whip team.
Ed Towns, Bobby Rush, and Jesse Jackson Jr are members of the CBC, Gary Peters was just elected, and the rest are mostly Blue Dogs. Dingell himself has fought every major regulation of the auto industry, including airbags and mileage standards: "Back in the 1980s, when a senator from Nevada tried to raise fuel economy standards, Mr. Dingell responded by introducing a bill to create a giant new nuclear waste dump in Nevada."
Dingell's whip team has reaped a fortune in coal money, contrasted with Waxman's sparse take. But this fight is bigger than just some coal donations, it's about the gamut of industrial legislation. It's about health care, telecommunications, energy, climate change, internet policy, and trade. It is, in other words, about what kinds of policies are getting through this Congress.
Now, one of the big wild cards are all the new members that were elected. Aside from Peters, what do they think? Are they going to go along with the Blue Dog climate change obstructionist view, or will they actually take a progressive standpoint to move the country beyond the smokestack driven destructive policies of the Bush administration? Well, we'll know soon enough.