DeGette survives Waxman’s energy committee housecleaning

As my Washington colleague Mike Lillis points out, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Cal., is making good on promises to make the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee more environmentally friendly after wresting the chairmanship from longtime auto industry ally Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.

While other high-profile members are out and two subcommittees have been combined, Denver Democrat Diana DeGette made the cut and will continue as vice chair despite backing Dingell to retain the leadership post.

Lillis writes at The Washington Independent:

In a reshuffling that will remove several Dingell allies from key environmentally sensitive posts, Waxman melded two E&C subcommittees — the Energy & Air Quality panel and the Environment & Hazardous Materials panel — to form the Energy and Environment subcommittee, of which Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) will be the chairman, the Boston Globe reported today.

Markey, who also heads the House committee on energy independence and global warming, has long been among the most fervent congressional environmentalists, pushing for increased fuel efficiency standards and protection of the Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, among a long list of pet causes.

Displaced in Waxman’s reorganization will be Rep. Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat who has long protected the interests of Big Coal. Boucher, who heads the soon-to-be-disbanded Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, will instead take control of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, a post currently held by Markey. Rep. Gene Green (D-Tex.), another Dingell ally who now heads the soon-to-be-extinct Environment & Hazardous Materials panel, is apparently out of a chairmanship.

Grist writer David Roberts has a nice wrap-up today of the implications of all this reshuffling:

This gives Markey a one-two punch: he can craft and help pass climate/energy legislation through the Subcommittee while using the Select Committee to educate other committee chairs about how the issue affects their jurisdictions. I can’t think of another committee chair who has the same kind of megaphone with which to drum up support for his own legislation, in the House and among the public.

With this move, Pelosi’s House further cements itself as the likely force for boldness on climate/energy issues in coming years. The Speaker is by all accounts a sincere and committed greenie. She has Waxman at the helm of the relevant committee. She has Markey running the relevant subcommittee and doing education/advocacy. Dingell and his allies — the go-slow lobby — have been cleared away. All systems are go.

Heading one of the more powerful committees in the House, Waxman and DeGette will shepherd bills on health care, energy, environment, food and consumer protection, and telecommunications in the 111th Congress.

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Wendy Norris

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