Ending a three-week long turf war, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D‑Calif.) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D‑Mich.) have reached an agreement on the parameters of the select committee on global warming.
In a new letter to Pelosi, Dingell wrote that the select committee has no legislative authority and that the panel will expire on Oct. 30, 2008. Dingell also wrote that he has “assurances” from Pelosi that his committee will get first dibs to call witnesses where there could be potential conflict and that Pelosi will be consulted “before the exercise of any compulsory powers by the select committee to ensure the appropriate coordination of efforts.”
Pelosi had announced her intention to create this committee in January, and rumors about it had been circulating in December, complete with Congressman Markey as the chairman of the committee. The impetus for this is to ensure that Congress generates a solid record on which to base legislation. As it says above, the committee will have no power to send legislation to the floor, merely to hold hearings.
The move was seen as necessary in order to put pressure on Chairman Dingell. Dingell has been a representative for an auto-industry dominated district for a long, long time, and has expressed no great enthusiasm for climate change legislation. The Energy and Commerce Committee could undoubtedly have kept itself quite busy without ever taking up climate change legislation, and Pelosi saw a need to push the agenda to the forefront.
Dingell undoubtedly saw the writing on the wall, and my sources tell me that he has been telling the auto industry to “expect the worst” from the new Congress. I find that and unfortunate attitude for him and the Big Three to take. Setting uniform standards will encourage innovation which could expand their foreign and domestic markets. Toyota has been steadily taking away business from the American manufacturers by pushing new technologies and maintaining high reliability. Whatever legislation passes the House won’t address the latter problem, but will give the Big Three an excuse to compete with Toyota in terms of fuel economy and renewable energy technologies.
Proposing that Markey lead the committee also avoided a leadership fight in the Natural Resources committee, where Markey had enough seniority to challenge Congressman Rahall for the chairmanship. Markey sits on Energy and Commerce also, and will chair the subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.