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Another Angle on the Waxman/Dingell Saga

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but there is the possibility that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Cal.) — who has launched a surprise challenge to Rep. John Dingell’s (D-Mich.) chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee — will, at the end of this saga, surrender his spot as head of the Oversight and Government Reform panel.

What happens then? Well, next in line to head the oversight committee is Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.). The 13-term Towns is popular in Brooklyn, where 94 percent of voters just secured his return to Washington. But he has a troubled past with one mighty-important member of the party: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.).

The reason is simple: In 2005, Towns was among just 15 House Democrats to support the Republican-sponsored Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA. He was also mysteriously absent for a vote on a GOP budget bill later in the year. Both controversial measures passed by the razor-thin margin of 217-215.

Pelosi, reportedly, was furious, threatening to strip Towns of his highly coveted E&C membership. That wasn’t all. After the Democrats took the House in 2006, Towns, who was due to chair the E&C health subcommittee, didn’t get the seat. Instead, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) was given the nod.

Next in line after Towns on the oversight panel is Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D), a moderate Pennsylvanian. Does Pelosi hold a grudge that long? We might know soon enough.

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