The Meaning of the Waxman Coup

Henry Waxman’s bid to oust John Dingell from his perch atop the House Energy and Commerce Committee succeeded on Thursday, with the chamber’s Democratic caucus voting 137-122 to hand him the gavel.

The verdict will have an immediate and significant impact on energy, environmental and health care policy, all of which should loom large in Barack Obama’s first-year agenda, pushing a major power center within the House sharply to the left and into alignment with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s governing vision.

There is also fear among some House veterans, particularly members of the Congressional Black Caucus, that Waxman’s triumph – the first successful bid to depose a Democratic chairman in 23 years, and the first time it’s even been tried since 1996 – will embolden more members to challenge the seniority system that, until now, has guaranteed committee chairmanships to members with the most tenure.

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The Meaning of the Waxman Coup