Waxman vs. Dingell

The news that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) would seek to oust Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is interesting, to say the least.

In our history, few members of Congress have been held in such broad bipartisan respect as John Dingell has since taking office in 1955. Serving as the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce panel for more than 25 years, few can doubt Dingell's effectiveness as a congressman or a chairman.

Dingell, 81, has not exactly been vacant from his chairmanship the past two years. As The Wall Street Journal notes today, "among his recent efforts has been a probe over Merck and Schering-Plough's cholesterol drug Vytorin and letters to the likes of Bayer and Amgen over sales practices. He's also been a critic of direct-to-consumer advertising." In addition, the House approved 91 bills from his committee, 27 of which were signed into law.

Waxman, on the other hand, is a partisan pit-bull. The very definition of a Hollywood liberal (that is his district, after all), he has used the committee to pursue investigation after investigation of the Bush administration, threatening countless officials with subpoenas and/or contempt of Congress. He launched the much-covered, much-criticized investigation of steroids in baseball. Waxman has pushed the very kind of environmental regulations Dingell has opposed, regulations that could further hurt the bottom lines of the American auto industry at a time when its very future is in question. And don't even think of using the word "tobacco" around Chairman Waxman, not even if you happen to be president-elect.

The outcome of Waxman's challenge of Dingell could serve as a key indicator of the direction of the Democratic Congress — whether it is more concerned with a far-left agenda and eating its own than seeking the workable solutions that have been the hallmark of Dingell's career.

One thing is certain. Waxman's willingness to give up the gavel of the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform sends a clear message that this Democratic Congress has no intention of using its investigative powers or providing any real oversight of an Obama administration.