Musical chairs

MUSICAL CHAIRS…. Ordinarily, watching which lawmakers head which congressional committees seems like a pretty dull exercise, but since the election, House Democrats have been making, or at least considering, some interesting moves, especially when it comes to the environment.

In November, there was a rather contentious fight over the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, with Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) ultimately prevailing over John Dingell (D-Mich.). In a classy move, Waxman then tapped Dingell to “take the lead on all major health care initiatives before the committee in the next Congress.”

This was a win-win situation — Waxman is far better on the environment than Dingell, but Dingell is great on healthcare. The moves made it more likely we’d see better legislation on both issues.

Similarly, CQ reports on another possible switch that would work to everyone’s advantage.

The two senior House Democrats with jurisdiction over energy and telecommunications policies could swap gavels in the 111th Congress, with potentially dramatic implications for the shape of climate change legislation expected next year.

Since 2007, Rick Boucher of Virginia, the Energy and Commerce Committee’s fourth-ranking Democrat, has led the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, which has taken the lead role in crafting legislation to address global warming.

But Boucher said in an interview Tuesday that he expects Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, No. 3 among committee Democrats in seniority, to bid for the subcommittee chairmanship. Boucher said he would “respect that decision” and stake his own claim for chairmanship of Markey’s Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

“I’m awaiting his decision,” Boucher said. Markey has not yet made up his mind, a spokesman said.

A move by Markey to leadership of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee would represent a significant philosophical shift in the leadership of a panel charged with writing the climate legislation that House leaders and the Obama administration want to pass this year.

Boucher’s far from great on the environment — he represents a coal-rich corner of Virginia — so Markey would be a big step up on the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee. At the same time, Boucher is great on telecommunications issues, and is the co-founder of the Congressional Internet Caucus.

Matt Yglesias added that the “political winds are clearly blowing in a not-so-Boucher direction on climate and energy,” so if Markey and Boucher switched gavels, everyone wins. Works for me.