When February rolls around, Rep. John Dingell will be the longest-serving House member ever. His seniority made his ouster controversial, but was ultimately an ineffective dike against a tidal wave of pro-environment feeling.
House Democrats are serious about going green. To prove it, they just ousted auto hawk John Dingell from his perch as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Henry Waxman, a California liberal and occasional Dingell foe, supplied the boot.
Waxman campaigned for the job as a more natural ally of President-elect Barack Obama, whose ambitious agenda would almost certainly have run into a few Dingell roadblocks.
On a 137-122 vote, Waxman dethroned Dingell from a post he has held as either chairman or ranking Democrat since 1981. He is the most prominent supporter of his home state’s auto industry and has feuded with junior committee members, including Waxman, over efforts to impose fuel efficiency standards on cars.
“Seniority is important, but it should not be a grant of property rights to be chairman for three decades or more,” Waxman told reporters after the vote.