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Automakers lose a champion on the Hill

Congressman John Dingell has lost the chairmanship of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee to Congressman Henry Waxman.

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland:
One of the factors behind today's volatility was the continued backing-and-forthing over whether there will be some sort of rescue package for Detroit.
Today, congressional leaders gave the Big Three 12 days to come up with a plan proving they're worthy of a bailout.
It's not the only signal of a shift in power for the automakers.
Today California Democrat Henry Waxman ousted Michigan's John Dingell as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Marketplace's Alisa Roth has that story.


Alisa Roth:
Congressman John Dingell has represented Michigan -- and the auto industry -- for decades. California's Henry Waxman has long been his rival. Pushing for tougher industry standards on things like emissions.

James Thurber: This is symbolically a show that Michigan is losing power.

James Thurber directs the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University.
He says Dingell really controlled the auto industry's agenda on the Hill.

Thurber: He was so powerful that he could stop certain clean air legislation and minimum miles per gallon legislation. He really protected the industry and he's no longer there anymore.

Dingell's departure happens to come at a do or die moment. Detroit is barely hanging on. And as the Big Three go, so do the United Auto Workers.

Some say the timing of it all is coincidental.

Thomas Mann is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. And he says that in today's economic and political climate, Detroit's problems go well beyond the scope of a congressional committee.

Thomas Mann: I really think it's a mistake to believe that in this economic and political environment that a committee chair is in a position to dramatically shape policy with respect to the auto industry right now.

Even so, if Congress manages to vote on a bailout before anybody goes bankrupt, Waxman could have an effect. Many say he will force tougher standards into any agreement.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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