For Dems, Dingell Showdown Is Agony

Representatives dread choice between veteran lawmakers to chair key committee
By Gabriel Winant,  Newser User
Posted Nov 20, 2008 8:09 AM CST
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., speak after being re-elected to lead the party in the 111th Congress on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008.   (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
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(Newser) – House Democrats have been dreading this day: the unavoidable vote between Henry Waxman and John Dingell to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee. Though Waxman is a savvy lawmaker and closer to much of the caucus on the key issue of climate change, the 82-year-old Dingell, Detroit's staunchest congressional booster, is the longest-serving member of the House. "I wish we did not have to make the choice between two extraordinary legislators,” one representative puts it politely.

Waxman won a preliminary Steering Committee vote yesterday 25-22. Dingell supporters say that the caucus as a whole, which is set to vote today, is more supportive of Dingell than the committee. “We’re in a much stronger position with the rank and file,” says a Pennsylvania congressman backing Dingell. Waxman supporters have kept mum.