The Blue Dogs and New Democrats Make Their Move Against Action on Climate Change

by: Matt Stoller

Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 18:45

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.

Matt Stoller :: The Blue Dogs and New Democrats Make Their Move Against Action on Climate Change
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.

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excellent post (4.00 / 8)
more of this type of analysis please.  

so short-sighted (4.00 / 5)
If people like Dingell had tried to push Detroit in a different direction, the auto industry would be in better shape now. They keep trying to buy time, but they would be better off facing the future.

I love Waxman, but I think he is going to get squashed on this.

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

Damn (0.00 / 0)
A non-ironic Stoller post I'm in complete agreement with  ;-)

This info is much appreciated and an example of the reason I come here, despite (more than) occasional disagreements over substance and method.

This is just the type of stuff that simultaneously makes people instinctively hate Congress and is tough to fight because Dingell is a professional at accumulating and wielding power.

Here's hoping he's finally met his match.

WTF? (0.00 / 0)
Why is Kirsten Gillibrand on this list?  Does anyone know the history behind this?

Republicans can't fix our country; they're too busy saddlebacking.

Tactical question (0.00 / 0)
Gillibrand is my rep.

How do I exert pressure on her to remove herself from Dingell's team?

Step 1 (4.00 / 2)
Call and ask why she's working to block climate change.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
OK (0.00 / 0)
I will call her tomorrow and ask her staff exactly that.

Any others wanting to join me- Gillibrand's number is:

Phone:  (202) 225-5614

[ Parent ]
does this matter (0.00 / 0)
with GM, Chrysler, and Ford all being basically bankrupt?

if Pelosi and the financial wizkids of the dem party (who brought us the bailout fiasco) decide they're going to piss away another $50 Billion on propping up a horribly mismangaged auto industry, Pelosi et al is at least going to get greener cars out of the negotiation. Even better would be to let GM go into chapt 11 and restructure with no tax payer burden, and use the collapse to finally ram through a national health care program.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

My understanding of Obama's stance (0.00 / 0)
is that he's going to tie further add to a more fuel efficient fleet. At least that's what I think I heard earlier on the TV thingy.

[ Parent ]
We need a strong progressive answer to (0.00 / 0)
the "jobs" scare tactic so often used by the Blue Dogs and Republicans.  Obama has even brought up the 3 million jobs in the health insurance industry as a reason that single payer health care isn't practical in the current climate.  In many cases, its simply not true, and even when it is (as in the case of single payer), transition programs can be brought into play to help out people find new work.  Unfortunately, these arguments don't seem to resonate with the public.

Excellent post by the way.  One of the best I've read on this site in a while.

Obama at his presser... (0.00 / 0)
...referred to the auto industry as the backbone of American manufacturing.

(To which I thought, if the rest of US manufacturing is as mind-numbingly stupid as Detroit, no wonder US manufacturing is in such terrible shape.)

Dingell is not going anywhere.

Done Deal? (0.00 / 0)
Does Obama's commitment to bailing out Detroit mean that Dingell will steam roll Waxman?

If Waxman has a chance at knocking off Dingell-a real neanderthal in my book- it would seem incumbent on us to try to make it happen.

But if it's a done deal, I, for one, won't bother.

What's the score on this?

How is this decided? (0.00 / 0)
Is there a vote of the full caucus, or is appointed by Pelosi, or what?

Here's how: (0.00 / 0)
From a posting on grist:


". . . if Waxman goes forward with the challenge, it will all come down to who can round up the most votes. The chairmanship is first voted on by the House Democratic Steering Committee, and then it goes before the full Democratic caucus.."

[ Parent ]
Democratic Steering and Policy Committee (0.00 / 0)
Does anyone have a list of the members of the House Steering an Policy Committee, with how many votes they each carry?

This committee will take a first crack at this vote/assignment, so this would seem to be a good place to aim pressure, if we knew who was on it.  Members in the leadership have more votes than others, so it would be nice to be able to know those numbers, too.


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