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House Of Waxman

Henry Waxman has succeeded--somewhat surprisingly--in his challenge to unseat John Dingell as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Harold Meyerson made the case for Waxman in yesterday's Post:

First, he is probably the House's most accomplished legislator in three issue areas that are high on the agendas of the nation and President-elect Barack Obama: universal health care, global warming and enhanced consumer protections (no small matter with a steadily rising percentage of our food and medication ingredients coming from China). On environmental questions, Waxman offers a sharp contrast to Dingell, who has long been the primary opponent of stricter standards for auto emissions and fuel efficiency.

Second, Waxman is a legislative genius....Those who have served in Congress for fewer than 14 years weren't around when Waxman greatly strengthened the Clean Air Act and authored the legislation that expanded Medicaid coverage to the poorest children (enlisting Republican abortion-foe Henry Hyde as his partner in the effort). They didn't see Waxman steer to passage the bills that gave rise to the generic drug industry, required uniform nutrition labels on food, heightened standards of care at nursing homes, created screening programs for breast and cervical cancer, provided health care for people with HIV/AIDS, or expanded Medicaid coverage to the working poor...

Some of Waxman's achievements were to keep bad things from happening. For virtually the entire 1980s, Waxman blocked Dingell and the Reagan administration from weakening auto emission standards. At one point, he blocked a key vote on a bill to debilitate the Clean Air Act by introducing 600 amendments, which he had wheeled into the room in shopping carts. Waxman also led the war on secondhand cigarette smoke. He publicized an obscure EPA report that established secondhand smoke as a carcinogen, uncovered the onetime Philip Morris lab director who had determined that nicotine was addictive, and publicly grilled tobacco company CEOs about their failure to share that fact with the public.

The Hill declares this a victory for Nancy Pelosi. It's also, I think, one for Barack Obama.

Update: Brad has more on what this means over at The Vine.

--Christopher Orr