Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has ousted John Dingell (D-Mich) as Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The vote was 137-122.
The enormity of this can't be overstated.
As Marc Ambinder wrote:
The committee will be the most powerful in the new Congress, one that'll deal with health care and energy legislation. (Ways and Means? Pleghghgh.) A lot of impatient liberal Democrats want to see Dingell go; he is too old, too blinkered in his thinking and too at odds with the party on energy, they say; just as many, it seems, want him to say, including some influential members of the leadership, even if for reasons of preserving the integrity of the seniority system.
D-Day, writing for Calitcs put the politics of this into perspective:
Waxman, who wrote the Clean Air Act and who has an understanding of what is needed to be done on global warming and the post-carbon future, would make a great chairman, as opposed to the Dingellsaurus, who is still trying to protect the auto industry from moving into the 21st century, even as the verdict on their approach is defined by their trudging to Capitol Hill for a bailout. A majority of the caucus has signed a letter to Nancy Pelosi asking for greater efforts to combat climate change. Waxman at Energy is a key to that happening. We must eliminate this roadblock.
Lots of members of Congress put themselves in the position of someone like Dingell, who earned his chairmanship with seniority, and they don't want to see him pushed out because they wouldn't want it to happen to them. That's the kind of institutional thinking that must be vanquished, as it restricts change. The enviro groups are backing away from this fight because they don't want to feel Dingell's wrath if he wins. There is nobody else left to step in but us. I was skeptical that House Democrats would be pushed in the direction of progress, but with Waxman's former chief of staff, Phil Schiliro, in the Obama White House, some pressure may be coming down from the top. It's in all of our interests to have Henry Waxman atop this committee.
That's change, folks. Real change we can believe in.