Henry Waxman has ousted John Dingell as chair or the House Energy Committee in a secret vote of the Democratic caucus.
Dingell, who represents Michigan and is married to a GM exec, has battled the more liberal Waxman on fuel efficiency standards. The move is seen as good news for environmentalists, and is a sign that the House understands the mandate for change that the 2008 elections represent. Waxman defeated Dingell by 15 votes (137-122) in the caucus vote. According to a report at politico.com, Representative-elect Gerry Connolly of Virginia said 18 of the 26 freshman legislators had committed to Waxman before the vote. However, unless at least 21 of the 26 actually voted for him, it means Waxman also got a majority of the returning members of the caucus - and thus would have won the chair even with an even split among the newcomers.
Progressives have been stewing over the number of familiar faces from the Clinton era among President-elect Obama's high-profile appointees, but author David Corn, speaking on today's Democracy Now! program, said that there are "a bunch of people who have been progressive public policy advocates, academics and other experts, who have spent their whole adult careers devoted to policy making, not necessarily to going between government and private sector and making a bunch of money."
It makes sense that as a relative newcomer to Washington, Obama would want some people with experience around him. I think it's encouraging that he has also brought some people who are passionate about the change we need. Yes, some of Obama's appointees have checkered pasts when it comes to AIPAC and PNAC and Gitmo; but he strikes me as a strong leader and a passionate advocate for change, and these people are going to know there's a new boss. They're going to have a chance to make a case to him for what they believe in, but ultimately he is the man who will make the decisions; and they, if they are faithful employees, will implement what he decides regardless of their personal views. I think we on the left should continue to pressure Obama for liberal and progressive changes, but I don't think we need to panic over his appointments. He said from the start that he planned to forge a team of rivals, and I think he deserves to be judged more by what he does than by whom he chooses to do it through.
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