Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Democratic Infighting on Global Warming

I've commented before on the difficult challenge Nancy Pelosi faces, of trying to rein in her committee chairmen. Too many of them waited 12 years to regain their positions of power, and aren't about to cave to Ms. Pelosi just because she happens to be America's Greatest Woman Leader - or whatever the appropriate title is. The Washington Post gives an interesting look at the budding civil war over global warming:

Democrats, [Pelosi] explained, had to show a sense of urgency about the carbon emissions that threaten the planet, and so she was creating a select committee on energy independence and climate change to communicate that urgency. The new committee, she said, would help the caucus speak with one voice -- even if it trampled the turf of existing committees...

Pelosi's power play demonstrated her seriousness about climate, a complex issue that may be as legislatively difficult and politically treacherous as health care was in the 1990s. But it also reflected her seriousness about imposing discipline on her caucus and preventing a return to the days when long-serving Democratic chairmen ran their committees as independent fiefdoms.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (Mich.) -- the longest-serving House member and a legendary defender of his committee's prerogatives as well as the carbon-emitting auto industry of his home state -- had made it clear that he expected to lead the party's global-warming debate in a rather leisurely fashion. Pelosi was end-running him.

Read the whole thing. It's rather interesting.

I really liked this line, by the way:

The strict emissions cuts that Pelosi supports had no chance in the GOP Congress, but they still face an uphill climb. Carbon-reliant industries including coal, oil, agriculture and manufacturing will resist any strong legislation, a position that will pose serious dilemmas for Democrats in districts where those industries and their unions hold sway. Some representatives of low-income minority districts are also concerned that a climate bill would slap heavy energy costs on their constituents.

Implicit and unspoken in this statement is the fact that these industries would have no influence whatsoever if they did not act as proxies for the interest of millions of voting Americans. These industries are not inherently powerful in this debate; the fact that this legislation will raise prices to millions of their consumers is what gives them the power.

Update: The Hill shows how ugly the infighting is getting:

“Let’s get in his grille,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), referring colloquially and aggressively to Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

Weiner was talking to fellow Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee panel last Thursday; they were disgruntled about Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) plan to take away some of their turf by creating a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming with Markey at its head.

“Guys from Boston are soft,” Weiner added, according to sources at the private meeting last Thursday, and said they should constantly preempt Markey by holding Energy and Commerce panel hearings a day before any scheduled hearing by the new select panel. If Markey traveled to Stockholm, Energy and Commerce members would travel to Stockholm, he said. Lawmakers and aides present chuckled.

Oh yeah. This is going to work GREAT.

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