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House Dems bounce Dingell for newer model, Calif's Henry Waxman

November 20, 2008 |  5:28 pm

Rep. John Dingell might have seemed like the House of Representative's immovable object. That was until the fierce defender of the American auto industry met an undeniable force.

The House Democratic Caucus voted 137-122 Thursday to bounce the 81-year-old representative from his chairmanship oCalifornia Democrat congressman Henry Waxman of Beverly Hills ousts Michigan committee chairman John Dingell in House of Representatives leadershipf the House Energy and Commerce Committee, replacing him with Henry Waxman, the Beverly Hills representative with a much more environmentally-friendly reputation.

Congress-watchers expect the 69-year-old Waxman to help pave the way for long-delayed measures to increase the full efficiency, and reduce the tailpipe emissions, of American-made cars.

Dingell helped stave off such reforms in his more than two decades serving as either the chairman or ranking Democrat on the key congressional committee.

A grim new landscape -- the Big Three auto makers nearly bankrupt and energy scarcity putting fuel efficiency atop the domestic agenda -- helped Waxman eke out the narrow but stunning victory over Dingell.

Dingell seemed to many to be too cozy with the struggling industry, in part perhaps because his wife, Debbie, is an executive at General Motors and a descendant of the struggling auto giant's founding family.

The, uh, outspoken Waxman has been a force in the House since he joined in the post-Watergate class of 1974, making a splash in recent years as a senior member and chair of the committee that looked into the Hurricane Katrina cleanup and the use of steroids in baseball.

--Jim Rainey

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Photo credit: Gerald Herbert / Associated Press

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