Democrats reshuffle Hill leadership
Some long-time committee heads are replaced in order to advance Obama’s agenda.
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Lieberman met with majority leader Reid last Thursday, and both men left the meeting saying discussions are ongoing.Skip to next paragraph
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This week, Democratic leaders, including President-elect Obama, have played down the rift with Lieberman. “I know Joe Lieberman very well. He is a senior member of the Senate. He is on Armed Services, if something happens to the chairman he becomes chairman. If something happens to the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, he becomes chairman,” said Reid on CNN’s Late Edition on Sunday.
“So he is a senior member.... I would not be majority leader but for his vote.” he said. “But the caucus has a decision to make and they’re going to make it.”
A congressional aide close to Lieberman says that the senator is “considering his options” but that losing chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs panel was “not acceptable.”
One chairmanship decidedly not on the blocks is Sen. Edward Kennedy’s leadership of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Despite the Massachusetts senator’s health issues, Democrats say they expect Senator Kennedy to return to chair the panel in January, and they have prepared a special office for him just off the Senate floor.
On the House side, a leadership battle is shaping up on the Energy and Commerce committee between its chairman, 27-term Rep. John Dingell (D) of Michigan and 17-term Rep. Henry Waxman (D) of California, a liberal Democrat and current chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government reform.
Mr. Dingell’s defense of the auto industry and opposition to broad climate change legislation in the past put him at odds with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and environmental groups at the base of the Democratic Party.
“This is a sea-change election and Democrats want to be sure that the chairman and chairwomen line up with the apparent mandate of the election,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University.
“The environment is going to be one of the issues and here is John Dingell standing in the way,” he says.
But Dingell is contesting that view of his record and fighting for his chairmanship. In a Nov. 6 letter to colleagues, Dingell said his panel had shown that it is capable of moving “enormously complex and difficult legislation” – and that it had just released a 461-page discussion draft on climate change in October.