- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2007

So threatening does House Speaker Nancy Pelosi believe global warming is to the future of humanity that she wants to create an entire committee to confront it. Maybe to the non-Capitol-Hill person and depending on one’s view of global warming, committee-creation doesn’t seem like much of an answer to what Mrs. Pelosi calls the “most urgent environmental issue facing us today.” But the speaker’s wish of creating a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has ignited a firestorm within the Democratic majority.

At issue is Mrs. Pelosi’s ongoing power struggle with her committee chairmen, in this case Energy and Commerce Committee chairman — as well as the most senior member in the House — John Dingell. For both practical and partisan reasons, Mrs. Pelosi took up the speaker’s gavel determined to keep her chairmen in line.

So far the speaker’s strategy has met with mixed results. For instance, Mrs. Pelosi has wrested an agreement with Rep. John Conyers to not use his Judiciary Committee to hold impeachment hearings; but her endorsement of left-wing hero Rep. John Murtha to be majority leader, over establishment favorite Steny Hoyer, failed miserably.

Now Mrs. Pelosi is taking on one of the most powerful members of the House, whose own committee would otherwise have jurisdiction over any global-warming bills. The problem, as Mrs. Pelosi sees it, is that Mr. Dingell, representing the Detroit area, has long opposed emission controls that would hurt the automobile industry. “Tailpipe Johnny,” as environmentalists dubbed him years ago, doesn’t deny this. But he’s also bringing decades of practical perspective to the contentious issue of global warming: Namely, Mrs. Pelosi won’t get anything near to what she and her supporters want in a global-warming bill. Mr. Dingell probably wouldn’t, but we’ll go ahead and say that even Mrs. Pelosi understands this and all her talk about select committees is just a way of one-upping Republicans on what she sees as a moral issue. If true, this would make her campaign to sideline Mr. Dingell all the more insulting.

So how far will the new speaker push? To create a new committee Mrs. Pelosi would have to get a floor vote. But assuming Republicans line up in opposition, all they’ll need are 16 Democrats to break ranks. Those 16 could be provided by Mr. Dingell. Perhaps that’s why Rep. Ed Markey, whom Mrs. Pelosi has tapped to head her new committee, released a memo to Democrats last Friday stressing that his understanding of Mrs. Pelosi’s plan is that the new committee would have “no legislative jurisdiction,” meaning Mr. Dingell would keep his legislative turf.

True or not, that’s certainly not the impression one gets from listening to Mrs. Pelosi. Whichever way the majority goes, it is just part of what will be a continuing struggle to centralize power in the speaker’s office over the protests of the committee chairmen.

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