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Off-Key Musical Chairs

To echo the sentiments of a Hill watcher who should know, it seems kind of silly that immediately on the heels of a huge Democratic victory, House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA)  is already trying to boot John Dingell, the senior member of the entire House I believe, from his perch atop the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which he has steered fairly and with distinction lo these many years.

That’s according to The Washington Post and confirmed by the aforementioned source.

Yes, I know, Waxman is second to Dingell in seniority, and chairing a government oversight committee when thegovernment in power is dominated by your own party is hardly the red-meat tearing, bully pulpit-providing post it has been when George W. Bush and Karl Rove and Dick Cheney were on the other end of all that inquiring and overseeing. It may be just the brass knuckles of Hill politics, but it can’t help but leave a mark when the Democrats should be trying to look their best for the victory photos.

Waxman’s desire to move up to the high-profile chair is understandable. It would be hard to see Waxman having as much to do at oversight, and doing it would not be nearly as much fun. Being the Congress’ version of the Maytag repairman could also spur cires of unfairness from smarting Elephants with long memories about Waxman’s investigations into the Valerie Plame leak or global warming or (fill in the blank).

The Energy part of Energy & Commerce is also said to be particularly attractive to Waxman. All that said, the move would rankle a party elder and somewhat belie Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s talk of togetherness.

Chairman Dingell is said to have already lined up members of the Black and Hispanic Caucuses, Blue Dog Democrats, legislators from Waxman’s own home state of California and others to support him. He is highly unlikely to be unseated–braodcasters are certainly hoping for a Dingell victory given Waxman’s history of media criticism. But whatever the outcome, the attempt does nothing to further the image of party unity.

Waxman may simply be setting himself up for the day when Dingell leaves on his own accord/ If so, it gives warning to House Telecom Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), another obvious candidate for the post when Dingell retires, that he will have some stiff competition if he throws his Boston Red Sox  hat into the ring.