House Democrats pick Waxman to lead energy panel

WASHINGTON — In a major win for environmentalists, Democrats in the House of Representatives voted Thursday to put Rep. Henry Waxman of California in charge of a key panel that will have oversight over global warming issues in the new Congress.

He'll head the House Energy and Commerce Committee, bumping Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell, 82, the most senior member in the House.

Thursday's Democratic caucus secret ballot, 137-122 in favor of Waxman, mirrored a decision a day earlier by the Steering and Policy Committee to replace Dingell, who's been the top Democrat on the panel for 28 years.

The Waxman-Dingell battle had been watched closely on Capitol Hill. Waxman is regarded as an ally of environmentalists, while Dingell has ties to the auto industry. He's resisted higher fuel standards and tighter limits on greenhouse gases. It was the first major test of whether the party's liberal wing has more clout than its moderate wing.

Dingell had called Waxman an "anti-manufacturing left-wing Democrat" and said that it would be a mistake to have him in charge of the committee, particularly with the auto industry struggling.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California is thought to be closer to Waxman, 69. She'd clashed with Dingell in the past, but she remained neutral in the fight, at least publicly.

In 2002, she supported Dingell's Democratic primary opponent. Last year, she created a special panel to make the case for bigger reductions in greenhouse gases, taking jurisdiction on global warming legislation away from Dingell's committee.

Thursday's vote means that two Californians will take leading roles in the debate over global warming. Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is the head of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue.


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