Representative John Dingell (D-General Motors) has lost his chairmanship of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. The full Democratic caucus voted yesterday to strip the 82 year old holdover from the Eisenhower Administration days and replace him with Henry Waxman (D-Partisan Hack), a Watergate Baby first elected in that famous class of 54 Democrats who rode into Washington in 1975 as a result of a voter backlash against Nixon's crimes.
With Waxman in charge they may have to rename the committee to the "Energy and Anti-Commerce" committee. There are few more liberal, more anti-business Congressmen in Washington. And now Waxman will ride herd on energy legislation as well as an attempted re-regulation of many, many industries.
The Wall Street Journal puts Waxman's victory over the old New Dealer Dingell in perspective:
That fissure neatly separates the Waxman Democrats from the old vanguard that Mr. Dingell represents. He was first elected in 1955 and has always tried to protect his hometown Detroit auto makers from the eco-mandates that ultimately helped to land them in their present predicament. Mr. Dingell's rough-hewn candor about the realities of "doing something" about climate change also helped to make him a green pariah. He knows that carbon regulation and taxes will fall most heavily on domestic manufacturing and Midwest states that rely on coal-fired power. His sympathies lie with the people who work near (or in) factories and drive Fords or Chevys.
Mr. Waxman, speaking for the upscale precincts of Beverly Hills, wants to phase out coal and cars that use gasoline. The coastal elites who now dominate Democratic politics will happily trade the blue collar for the green collar.
Like George Miller, Barney Frank and the other liberals produced by Vietnam and Watergate, Mr. Waxman belongs to a cohort whose power has been checked -- one way or the other -- by Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton's New Democrat tendencies, the Republican sweep of 1994 and George W. Bush. Now with a new Democratic President and a crisis to use as a lever for a sweeping expansion of government, they aren't about to let an old warhorse with scruples about the costs of regulation interfere with their moment to govern.
We should add that Mr. Dingell is hardly some business apologist. At Energy and Commerce in the 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Dingell would burn the paint off the committee room walls with his interrogations of energy, insurance and drug company executives. The irony is that Democrats have found, in Mr. Waxman, an even more extreme antibusiness tribune, who will no doubt use his new powers to go after any concern that turns a profit but refuses to pay his party the obeisance of campaign cash and regulatory submission. In short, the Democrats have ousted the dean of the House for the spleen of the House.
Business will no doubt be in for a rough few years as the Obama White House and Congressional liberals will attack from two sides - regulatory and legislative - in an effort to overwhelm industries with challenges. In this kind of atmosphere, industry will play ball and grovel for concessions while simultaneously filling the campaign coffers of Democrats. It's not a question of being "brave." It is a matter of survival. Democrats will have them over a barrel and there is very little business will be able to do about it.Barack Obama - change we can go bankrupt to.