Politico - Democrats Anna Eshoo and Frank Pallone vie for top slot on Energy and Commerce Committee
February 6, 2014
In The News
By Jennifer Haberkorn and Darren Goode
Two senior Democrats said Monday that they want to succeed Henry Waxman as the top Democrat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, setting up a potentially contentious fight to defend top liberal policies on Capitol Hill, including climate change and Obamacare.
Within moments of each other, Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) announced plans to pursue the job — a position that comes with significant fundraising potential.
And former Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), who is now 87, hasn’t totally ruled out a run at getting back the top job he held for more than 25 years.
The committee has the broadest portfolio in Congress, ranging from health care and telecommunications to energy and environment. The top Democrat on the panel will be responsible for defending the Affordable Care Act if Republicans retain control of the House next year, along with President Barack Obama’s climate change strategy.
Pallone, the No. 3 Democrat on the committee behind Waxman and Dingell, has developed bipartisan relationships while serving as a party messaging master on the House floor. Eshoo is the No. 5 Democrat, but she has a strong ally in Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
Sitting outside for now and weighing his options is Dingell, who in a statement Monday said he is giving “thoughtful consideration” to a possible bid. But Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) who had helped Dingell battle to keep the post in 2008, said he didn’t think he would try for the slot. “I think I would have been called by now if he was going to do it,” Doyle said.
Pallone, who is now the top Democrat on the Health Subcommittee, has called Waxman a “good friend and mentor” and began reaching out to fellow Democrats shortly after Waxman announced he is retiring after this term.
First elected to Congress in cq 1988, Pallone has served as chairman or ranking member of three of the committee’s six subcommittees and is running on his seniority. He’s also done extensive fundraising for colleagues. He represents a district in central New Jersey, which encompasses parts of the Jersey Shore and is home to several large pharmaceutical companies.
In his announcement, Pallone said he wants to pursue the leadership that Waxman and Dingell used to ” “help this committee produce some of the most important legislation in our nation’s history.”
Eshoo, like Waxman, has close ties to Pelosi, a fellow Californian, and may have her support. Pelosi aides have stressed that Waxman had to prove he had backing on the committee before Pelosi added her weight to his chairmanship bid. Eshoo presumably would have to prove she, too, had support, before Pelosi takes a position, if she does at all.
Eshoo said she told Pelosi of her plans during halftime of Sunday night’s Super Bowl game “and she was very excited for me.”
Eshoo made sure to mention in her statement announcing her candidacy Monday that she had “received the encouragement of members of the committee and the Caucus to seek this position.”
Eshoo — who would have to leapfrog over Dingell, Pallone and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) — also stressed “an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to advanced research, communications, technology, health care, energy and the environment.” She represents a Silicon Valley region, which has both tech and biotech interests.
She is top Democrat on the panel’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee. She said she is running for the job “with great enthusiasm because it is the ‘committee of the F future’ and the most dynamic by its jurisdictions.” She is reportedly drafting a bill with Waxman and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), allowing the FCC to revive its Open Internet Order and, requiring service providers to treat all kinds of Web traffic equally.
If Dingell decides to wage a campaign to reclaim his spot as the top Democrat, he would certainly would be running on his seniority and the reputation he’s built as the longest-serving member of Congress in history.
He was stripped of his mantle by Waxman in 2008 when the more junior California Democrat was put in his place in order to pursue a more aggressive climate change and health care agenda. Dingell’s statement Monday noted he would wait to talk to with colleagues when he got back in town later that afternoon.
“I look forward to continuing to give this thoughtful consideration, speaking with my colleagues upon my return, and from there, I will find the absolute best ways in which I can serve the people of Michigan’s 12th Congressional District,” Dingell said.
On the health subcommittee, Pallone’s history is twofold. He has one of the most successful records among House subcommittees for bipartisan bills, particularly on public health. But he’s an attack dog on defending Obamacare, famously accusing Republicans for holding “monkey court” hearings into the law’s foibles.
And he’s built favor with other lawmakers on the panel.
“Frank Pallone is a really nice guy,” said one source close to the congressman. “You can’t quantify that, but that’s something that’s going to matter here. You don’t have a lot of people who can say Pallone screwed me.”
Pallone’s lone contribution in 2014 so far from his SHORE PAC is $1,000 to fellow Energy and Commerce Democrat John Barrow of Georgia. In 2012, his PAC gave $35,500 to fellow Democrats, including fellow energy panelists Barrow and Lois Capps of California.
Eshoo doesn’t appear to have a leadership PAC. But her she donated $300,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2012 cycle and $100,000 in the 2014 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Any vote for the chairmanship would be held in a secret ballot. A first-round win would go to anyone who got receives more than 50 percent of the votes. If no one can claim 50 percent, the person who came in last would be eliminated and another vote would be held until someone got a majority.