Pelosi Keeps Top Dems in the Dark over Global Warming Committee

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - In planning to create a new select committee on global warming, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has kept some senior Democrats - including her number two - in the dark.

At a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday to talk about her first 100 hours as speaker, Pelosi announced the creation of a new select committee on "energy independence and global warming."

"Its purpose will be to communicate with the American people on this important issue," she said. "I promise to do anything in my power to achieve energy independence within ten years, stop global warming, and this select committee is to further those goals."

But Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told Cybercast News Service that he and Pelosi "had not discussed" the select committee and what its scope would be.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who wants his own committee to take the lead in global warming issues, held a meeting prior to the speaker's announcement to discuss what action it would take on the proposed committee.

According to a memo provided by an aide, Dingell's committee plans to explore causes of climate change, its consequences, state and local initiatives as well as federal programs on climate change, action within the private sector, technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, international and domestic policies as well as regulation within the transportation industry.

Dingell and other members of the Energy and Commerce Committee expressed concern that Pelosi has not put anything about the new select committee in writing.

They worry that this may mean that her pledge to give the new body an oversight role only and not legislative authority could change.

"That will be the deciding factor," Jodi Seth, majority communications director for the Energy and Commerce Committee, said on the issue of whether Dingell would try to block the committee's formation, which will need a floor vote.

Seth noted that the chairman is generally opposed to committees that do not have legislative power.

"I'm not supportive of anything until I've seen the resolution, or until I have a clearer appreciation of what it is the speaker proposes or how it is going to impinge upon the efforts of this committee to move forward for a decent package of global warming and energy efficiency rights," Dingell told Cybercast News Service.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee who was at the meeting, will reportedly head the proposed global warming select committee.

Dingell said they agreed during the meeting that he would "assemble a small group of members to discuss with Mr. Markey a presentation with regard to this select committee."

"One should not try to get into a pulling match with John Dingell over jurisdiction," cautioned Myron Ebell, director of Energy and Global Warming Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

"This clearly has to be perceived by Dingell as a threat to his power and his authority," Ebell told Cybercast News Service. "He is somebody who you really shouldn't mess with. Nancy Pelosi should know that.

"It's the same kind of mistake - the same kind of damage - as supporting [Pennsylvania Congressman] Jack Murtha over Steny Hoyer" for the post of majority leader, Ebell said.

"If Pelosi thinks that this is a way to threaten Dingell into producing a global warming bill more to her liking, she is going to be very disappointed," Ebell continued. "Dingell is a person, in my experience, who is very fair-minded about lots of things.

"There is nothing sneaky about him, but he guards jealously his authority and his committee's authority," Ebell said. "He also remembers people who have tried to threaten that authority."

Others say the committee is necessary.

Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, called the decision to create the committee "a really gutsy move" by Pelosi.

"The House has struggled to change the country's course on energy on and off for 30 years, largely unsuccessfully, in part because of balkanized committee jurisdictions and the lack of a central leadership group," Clapp said in a statement.

"It's hard to see how a complex issue like global warming could be addressed without a committee charged to develop comprehensive policy proposals and work with the other half-dozen committees that have a piece of the pie," he said.

"Some committee chairmen and members will have understandable concerns," Clapp added. "But action on global warming is so urgent that the Speaker has probably taken the only course that could produce a comprehensive bill before the 2008 elections swamp the political process."

Make media inquiries or request an interview with Monisha Bansal.

Subscribe to the free daily E-brief.

E-mail a comment or news tip to Monisha Bansal.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.