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Waxman unseats Dingell as House energy committee chair

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AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

(Read caption) Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., leaves a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday, after the House Democratic Caucus elected him as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee over longstanding chairman, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.

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To the delight of many environmental groups across the country, California Democrat Henry Waxman has ousted fellow Democrat John Dingell of Michigan from his post as chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The 255-member House Democratic conference voted 137 to 122 Thursday to replace Rep. Dingell, a close ally of the auto industry, with Waxman, a longtime champion of environmental causes. The vote places Waxman in charge of a panel with one of the broadest jurisdictions of any congressional committee, responsible for legislative oversight relating to consumer protection, food and drug safety, air quality, energy supply and transmission, telecommunications, and a host of other matters relating to interstate and foreign commerce.

Environmentalists are praising the outcome, which was unusual in that it defied Congress's seniority system. Dingell, the House's longest-serving member, assumed office in 1955 and has chaired the energy committee for 28 years.

"Waxman’s victory is a breath of fresh air – of clean air," wrote Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental advocacy group. "It was a stunning defeat for the corporate lobbyists on K Street."

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