01/22/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Waxman On Why He Had To Oust Fellow Dem

The New York Times' Deborah Solomon interviews Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who recently ousted John Dingell (D-MI) to become chair of the powerful Committee on Energy and Commerce. Waxman explains that he felt it was necessary in light of the new administration.

Q: Congratulations on your new post! You are about to take over one of the most powerful subgroups in Congress, the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which handles climate change, health care and much else. Do you feel any guilt about ousting the current chairman, John Dingell, a fellow Democrat, who, at 82, is currently the longest-serving member of Congress?

A: I felt sad to have to engage in a challenge. I hoped he would retire.

Q: As a youngster of 69, did you personally ask him to retire?

A: I called him up and told him that I thought I would be able to bring more energy to the post. I was hoping that he wouldn't run again. He didn't agree with that idea, and I told him that I was going to run for it.


Q: This seems like a symbolic shift -- California environmentalist unseats Michigan congressman who propped up the auto industry.

A: We've had our differences on environmental issues. I think we need new leadership in the committee in order to move a very active agenda being proposed by the Obama administration.

As the Huffington Post has reported, Waxman's surprise win has opened up the Oversight Committee chair, creating another potential inter-party battle between a congressman with more seniority and one with more progressive credentials.