Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has gotten enough votes to put is name in front of the full Democratic Caucus to replace Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) atop the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee.
That came in a vote Wednesday in the Democratic Steering Committee.
Waxman only needed 14 votes, according to a spokesman for the representative, but got 25, with 22 voting not to put him up for election. Essentially it was a vote to allow a vote, with the full Caucus scheduled to vote Thursday morning.
A Waxman said they were confident they had the votes in the Caucus to win. Dingell spokeswoman Jodi Seth disagreed: "Chairman Dingell has built strong support across the entire caucus where this election will be decided. His appeal has always been caucus-wide and when this vote is put to the full and diverse caucus we have no doubt Representative Dingell will continue his Chairmanship.”
A source close to Dingell suggested that the Steering committee “geographically and politically skews toward Mr. Waxman.”
The Energy & Commerce Committee oversees the FCC, the DTV transition, and communications policy.
Now it is up to the full Democratic Caucus to decide who gets the plum post.
Waxman is currently a committee member and is chairman of the Government Oversight Committee, which he would have to give up.
Dingell, who won his re-election bid easily with 70% of the vote according to a Michigan paper, is one of the longest-serving House members, let alone Democrats, and has had good relations with broadcasters. The committee has oversight over the FCC and communications matters.
There has been concern among broadcasters over the past few elections, particularly after redistricting tightened Dingell's re-election races that Dingell could lose and long-standing media critic Waxman, the second in line behind Dingell in terms of seniority on the committee, would get the top spot.
Waxman's challenge came as something of a surprise, but in a letter on his Web site declaring he was going after the post, Waxman suggested he was the better man for the job, saying "we will need the very best leadership in Congress and our committees to succeed."
He listed energy, climate change and health care among his priorities, but made no mention of communications. On Thursday, Chairman Dingell put out a letter to his colleagues talking about all three issues and touting the committee's record.