advantage dingell?

Today’s “LA Times” has pretty good coverage of the opeing rounds between Dingell and Pelosi in thier fight over global warming. Right now, they’re saying it’s “advantage Dingell.” Here’s a clip:

…No one has suffered — or excelled — more from Dingell’s mastery of the rules than a fellow Democrat, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, who came to Congress in 1975 from a district that now includes Beverly Hills and Malibu. Waxman arrived with a good-government mission to clean up the smog obscuring Southern California’s beauty. The two battled mightily — the short, bell-shaped Waxman like a frustrated pugilist swinging at Big John.

Waxman tried to move on air pollution in 1983, but Dingell blocked him. He tried again in 1984. Same thing. And again in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988. Finally in 1989, Waxman won a subcommittee victory on controlling emissions from tailpipes. That broke the logjam. In 1990, Congress finally passed a Clean Air Act with teeth.

“Once we had the votes,” recalled Waxman, who now chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Dingell “decided to negotiate.”

…Dingell seems unfazed by the ferocity of the head wind whipping through Congress over climate change legislation. Recalling a notorious fight in which he resisted the pull of public opinion, he said, “I told Ralph Nader that seat belts weren’t ready, that they would kill people. And they did.”

But Dingell also says he understands that the political climate no longer allows him to ram through Detroit’s gas- guzzling agenda. He warned automakers to embrace some emissions standards, and they have done that.

“Frankly, the time has come for Congress to look at the problem of global warming,” he acknowledged.

Dingell intends to try to make sure that the bill balances its commitment to a cleaner environment against the cost in jobs.

“We’re going to get a strong bill,” he predicted, but he said he would also look out for the automakers.

“I’ll try to see to it that it’s one they can live with. History will have to tell.”

I tend to give Dingell a lot of credt for the Clean Air Act, and I’m sure much of it’s deserved, but it looks like maybe he didn’t go along as willingly as he’d now have us believe. I’m going to have to spend some time researching how that legislation actually came about, how his position changed over time, and how public opinion played a part. I suspect it’ll be be instructive.

And, as long as we’re on the subject of Pelosi v. Dingell, here’s some footage that you might find of interest. The first video is of Dingell talking about Pelosi, and the second is of her talking about him. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’d find this interesting even if the future of the Earth didn’t hang in the balance.

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One Comment

  1. mark
    Posted August 12, 2007 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    To Dingell’s credit, I really appreciate how he’s taking ownership of the gas tax idea. At first it looked as though he was just floating the idea to demonstrate the fact that Americans didn’t have the stomach for it, but now it really looks as though he’s going to give it a shot. Here’s the story from the “Ann Arbor News.”

    Dingell: Tax would curb use of gas
    He says hike up to 50-cent; a gallon would affect driving habits
    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    News Staff Reporter

    Most tax increases are about generating revenue, but a potential increase in the federal gasoline tax proposed this week by U.S. Rep. John Dingell is more about changing people’s habits, the longtime congressman said Wednesday.

    The ultimate goal of a gas tax increase of up to 50 cents a gallon – announced by the Dearborn Democrat Tuesday at an Ann Arbor town hall meeting on climate change – is to curb people’s energy consumption.

    That’s something that controversial Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have not accomplished in 30 years of existence.

    “CAFE has worked, but it’s gone as far as it can,” Dingell said in an extensive interview with The News on Wednesday. “It has not affected the minds and hearts of the public and did not change people’s habits.

    “Unless we change human behavior we’re really not going to accomplish what we’re setting out to do.”

    Dingell, chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the tax would be part of a broader carbon levy he wants to draft into legislation this fall. His goal is to reduce fuel emissions by 60 percent to 80 percent by 2050.

    He also plans to propose eliminating mortgage interest deductions for homes larger than 3,000 square feet, which require more energy to heat and cool than smaller houses.

    Dingell said the reaction he’s received has been largely positive, but he knows the proposals will likely face steep opposition from congressmen across the aisle.

    Sylvia Warner, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, who also sits on the commerce committee, said Rogers and Dingell have worked together to limit the impact that sharp increases in CAFE standards would have on the auto industry and the potentially devastating results they could have on Michigan’s economy. But a gas tax increase is not something the two congressmen could agree upon.

    “He (Rogers) has a long history of opposing tax increases and on gas in particular, because they punish the people who can least afford it,” she said Wednesday. “It’s just not a way to approach a solution to the problem he’s working on.”

    Dingell said he doesn’t view the tax as a cure-all and cautioned that approved bills are often different from the legislation that is initially introduced. He adamantly denied assertions from environmentalists who have recently targeted his record on auto emissions standards that he’s considering a tax merely as a way to ensure the legislation will fail.

    Although he has previously said he doubts American consumers would be willing to pay the price for efficiency, he insists a tax has to be part of any serious discussions on slowing climate change.

    As for hurting lower-income citizens with a consumer tax, Dingell said he intends to balance any such proposal with provisions to increase the Social Security trust fund, bolster funding of a federal program that helps low-income residents pay utility bills and adjusting tax rates for low-income workers.

    Some of Dingell’s constituents embraced the idea.

    “We need to raise people’s consciousness on this issue and nothing does that better than impacting their pocketbooks,” said Jane Warren of Ann Arbor.

    Ann Arbor resident Tom Ewing said he supports the congressman’s idea of a higher fuel tax even if it hurts his bottom line.

    “Gas has to be $5 to $10 a gallon because it’s the only way we’ll cut back on oil consumption and the only way we’ll invest in mass transit,” Ewing said, while filling up at a downtown gas station Wednesday afternoon.

    “It’s got to happen even if we didn’t have global-warming problems because there just isn’t an unlimited supply of oil.”

    Art Aisner can be reached at or 734-994-6823.

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