Dingell Supporters Say He Will Stay Chairman

Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak calls him a skilled legislator who worked in a bipartisan manner

Several Energy & Commerce Committee Democrats supporting John Dingell (D-Mich.), told reporters late Thursday that they were confident he would remain chairman of the committee despite a surprising move by California Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to unseat him.

"There is no doubt in my mind that at the end of the day, Chairman Dingell will still be referred to as Chairman Dingell," said fellow Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak.

In a conference call responding to a story that Waxman had lined up enough votes in the Democratic Caucus, Stupak said his "whip" team had talked to about two third of the members and they were not interested in turning out "the dean of the House," without reason. Stupak said there was none.

He said Dingell had been an effective chairman. One of the issues appears to be whether Chairman Dingell can be as effective or is as committed to climate change legislation given his support of the auto industry in his home state. Stupak said yes, and that helping the auto industry was not just a Michigan priority given that 1 out of 10 jobs is connected to that industry.

Stupak called Dingell a skilled legislator who worked in a bipartisan manner. He also said he was surprised by Waxman's gambit. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), another Dingell supporter, said he had talked with Waxman, current chair of the House Government Oversight Committee, and that Waxman could not give him a reason why Dingell should be replaced other than Waxman thought he would make a better chairman. Both Doyle and Stupak said that was not sufficient reaason to upset the seniority system. Waxman is second in line of seniority behind Dingell on the committee.

Doyle said he told Waxman he should withdraw his challenge and both said they thought Waxman would have plenty to do on the oversight committee, particularly given the financial meltdown.

Stupak said he expected there would be a vote by the Democratic caucus on Nov. 17 or 18. He said he did not expect the Democrats steering and policy committee, which makes chair recommendations, would propose Waxman and that he would have to make the challenge himself. 

Doyle agreed it would be Waxman, saying he thought the committee would have no basis for not recommending Dingell. 

"You need a reason, not just that you want to be chairman. I'm a subcommittee chairman but I don't have delusions of grandeur that somehow I am entitled to be chairman of Energy & Commerce no matter how long I sit on that committee. Chairman Dingell has done the job. He is legendary. He can move legislation. There is no reason to make this change."


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