Adding lobbyists to the whip team?

ADDING LOBBYISTS TO THE WHIP TEAM?…. When it comes to drama on the Hill since the election, there’s obviously the Lieberman affair, the musical chairs among Republican House leaders, and speculation about which, if any, lawmakers may be tapped for an Obama administration post. But then there’s the Dingell-Waxman battle.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) is the current chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but now that government oversight is poised to be a lot less interesting, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) would like to fill Dingell’s shoes. Dingell, however, is still wearing those shoes and isn’t ready to give them up.

Kate Sheppard had an interesting item on the wrangling. (thanks to R.K. for the tip)

In an interview on Detroit’s WJR Radio last week, current Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) called challenger Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) an “anti-manufacturing left-wing Democrat” who has a “serious lack of understanding of people in the auto industry and manufacturing generally.”

Undeterred, Waxman says, “I think I have a good chance of winning.” A former Democratic member-cum-lobbyist agrees, telling CongressDaily, “Henry has the votes.” Waxman hasn’t revealed the names of all of his supporters, aka his “whip team,” but Reps. Howard Berman (Calif.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), and George Miller (Calif.) have voiced their support.

Dingell’s allies also claim to have the votes. Roll Call has a list of the 26 legislators signed on to his whip team, which is being chaired by Chet Edwards (Texas), Mike Doyle (Penn.), and Bart Stupak (Mich.). The group includes a number of moderate “Blue Dog” Democrats.

In an email sent to lobbyists last week, Dingell’s chief of staff wrote, “The Dingell whip team was assembled and actively making calls … The team continues to grow and today we reached out to every member of the Democratic Caucus. We are getting tremendous support so far.”

Dingell’s chief of staff wrote an email to lobbyists, trying to generate support for keeping him as the committee chairman?

I’m not on the Hill, but my sense is that the current political environment suggests this is the opposite of what Dingell ought to be doing. There’s some tough votes ahead, especially on global warming, and having a Democratic chairman backed by lobbyists won’t necessarily make it easier to advance a progressive agenda.

For what it’s worth, Dingell has unveiled a climate change plan. Robert Sussman, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and former Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, described it as “a thoughtful and serious effort,” but notes that it postpones the heavy lifting until 2030, and “should not be the starting point for legislative action in the new Congress.”