Thursday, April 02, 2009

Was John Dingell Pushed Off Stage Too Soon?

Did the House Democratic Caucus miscalculate last year in ignoring seniority and allowing Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif) to topple the legendary-decades-long serving chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee John Dingell? At the time it probably seemed to be the right thing to do because many felt that Dingell would be less friendly to the Obama agenda than Waxman. Waxman is clearly more aggressive on the environmental agenda items. The auto companies flying into Washington, D.C. on private jets with cup in hand [$25 billion loan request] at about the time of the caucus vote probably did not help Dingell either. In Washington, Dingell was the walking, breathing, talking symbol of Detroit for about the last four decades.

Maybe at 82, some thought Big John had lost a step. Our president tells us that even though former chairman Dingell is on crutches, he was getting around like a man half his age at a recent bill signing at The White House (see photo upper left). It is also ironic that Dingell would be toppled because he had acquiesed to increasing automobile fuel economy standards. There were grumbles last year though that the former chairman was not moving fast enough on climate change legislation. The House even set up another informal committee headed by Ed Markey (D-Mass) to hold hearings on climate change.

Regardless of all of this, John Dingell's vast experience might still be very helpful right now in harmonizing our nation's need for climate change mitigation with some sort of resolution to the Detroit automaker business debacle. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) defeated Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) on a vote of 137-122 in November after the presidential election . We will leave it to history to see if that close vote got it right.

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