Thursday, November 20th, 2008
James Besser in Washington
A leading Jewish congressman has won his battle for control of a committee that could play a major role if lawmakers decide to get serious about energy independence, health care reform and a host of other issues.
After a nasty inside battle, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) shoved aside the current chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). Waxman won the post by a 137-122 margin in a poll of Democratic House members.
Dingell, the longest-serving House member, represents a district in Michigan, where the interests of the big-3 American automakers are dominant. And his wife is a top executive at General Motors, the very same company that is now appealing for a big government bailout.
Environmentalists have long complained that Dingell has used that position to thwart stricter mileage and air pollution requirements at the behest of the car companies. Waxman, on the other hand, is a staunch environmentalist; as chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he pressed the Bush administration on global warming, as well as spearheaded investigations into its political dealings.
Democrats say that means President-elect Barack Obama will have a strong ally in a key position if he decides to press the issues of emissions and conservation. The committee could also play a major role in health care reform.
Dingell has also often been at odds with pro-Israel groups, while Waxman has enjoyed strong relations with both liberal Jewish groups and the pro-Israel lobby.
Also on the Jewish political front: Chicago Sun-Times columnist and blogger Lynn Sweet is reporting that Penny Pritzker, part of the super-rich hotel clan that plays a huge role in Chicago Democratic politics, has taken herself out of the running for the secretary of commerce position. Read Sweet’s blog entry here.