Congressional committee appointments are certainly inside baseball (come to think of it, the term “inside baseball” is inside baseball) but Speaker Pelosi’s move to create a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is a big deal.
You might think that it would be easy for Democrats to coalesce around a single plan to combat global warming, but there will likely be a myriad of plans — with varying degrees of boldness and timidity.
And it’s going to take leadership, along with grassroots pressure, to get Congress to put one strong plan on the president’s desk.
One obstacle may be Rep. John Dingell, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, who is close to Michigan’s automakers and not interested in quick, aggressive action.
Recognizing that the public won’t stand for foot-dragging, Pelosi plans to create a new committee to ensure Dingell or others can’t bury the issue.
The new committee won’t have legislative authority, but will give the issue the high-profile necessary to stoke public interest and push Congress to act.
Two weeks ago, the global warming deniers at the Big Oil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute scoffed at the move, telling the right-wing Cybercast News Service: “One should not try to get into a pulling match with John Dingell over jurisdiction … It’s the same kind of mistake – the same kind of damage – as [Pelosi] supporting Jack Murtha over Steny Hoyer [for Majority Leader.]”
Yes, such damage Pelosi suffered. With her caucus unity shattered, she only beat the 100 hours clock with 58 hours to spare.
Suckers for Democratic intra-party conflict, the Washington Post parroted the right-wing message, with the headline, “Internal Rifts Cloud Democrats’ Opportunity on Warming”.
But Pelosi didn’t flinch. And today’s Congressional Quarterly indicates that, despite some whining, her move is working out just fine:
Although Dingell has complained about Pelosi’s new panel to the press, he has not launched an effort to block the move when a committee funding resolution comes before the House, Democratic aides said.
When Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. was Speaker, Dingell “would have gone to the mat” over the creation of the global warming panel, said University of Oklahoma political scientist Ronald M. Peters.
Pelosi: stronger than Tip O’Neill!
There are still a lot of hurdles to clear, but strong leadership will be crucial in overcoming them.