WASHINGTON — Rep. Henry Waxman of California has been selected by a key Democratic leadership panel to replace veteran Chairman John Dingell to head a crucial House committee with jurisdiction over energy, global warming and many other issues like health care.
Waxman and Dingell, D-Mich., will still square off Thursday in a vote of House rank and file Democrats.
Based on the 25-22 vote in the Democratic Steering and Policy panel — which is packed with allies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. — Waxman seems to be a slight favorite to topple Dingell in Thursday's vote of all Democrats. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., revealed Wednesday's tally to reporters.
Dingell, 82, has been committee's top Democrat for 28 years, and is an important ally of automakers and electric utilities.
Pelosi did not take sides publicly, but is a home state ally of Waxman's. And she's tangled with Dingell in the past.
In 2002, Pelosi supported Dingell's primary campaign opponent. Last year, in a move that was viewed as undercutting Dingell's committee jurisdiction on the global warming issue, she created a special panel led by liberal Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey to make the case for bigger reductions in greenhouse gases.
Dingell still has hopes of keeping his post. The last time the leadership panel tried to oust a top panel Democrat, in 1996, Rep. Henry Gonzales of the Banking Committee won a vote of the full caucus, which overruled the decision.
Environmentalists and some liberal Democrats, however, see Dingell as an obstacle to stricter fuel economy standards for cars and trucks and cleaner fuels, as Obama also has advocated. They see in Waxman, whose district includes Beverly Hills, an opportunity to push through a more ambitious environmental agenda now that Democrats have expanded their majorities in Congress and will take over the White House.
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