By Tracie Mauriello / Post-Gazette Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Democrats from New Jersey and California are vying for their caucus's top spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and their bids to replace retiring Henry Waxman, D-Calif., could leave open a subcommittee leadership slot for Western Pennsylvania colleague Mike Doyle.
Among Democrats, Mr. Doyle of Forest Hills is second in seniority on the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, just behind Anna Eshoo of California, who is looking to take over for Mr. Waxman at the end of the year. If Ms. Eshoo gets the top spot, Mr. Doyle likely would become the subcommittee's top Democrat -- or even its chairman if Democrats retake control of the House in the November election.
But Ms. Eshoo isn't the only contender for top Democratic spot. Her chief rival is Frank Pallone of New Jersey, and others, including John Dingell, D-Mich., are weighing whether to seek the caucus-elected post. Mr. Dingell, the longest serving member of Congress, held the position until 2008 when Mr. Waxman challenged him on grounds he'd been holding up environmental legislation to protect auto manufacturers in his district.
"Mr. Dingell is still giving it consideration, and he continues to speak with his colleagues about it," said Christopher Schuler, spokesman for the Michigan congressman.
Committee chairmen are elected by the caucus. Subcommittee chairmen and ranking members are elected by members of their party who serve on the committee. Seniority typically plays a big role in the selections, and Mr. Doyle is a 10-term congressman who has served on the Energy and Commerce panel for a decade.
A spokesman for Mr. Doyle said the congressman definitely would seek to replace Ms. Eshoo if her subcommittee leadership role opens.
Becoming chairman would give him a greater voice on telecommunications issues, including his recent efforts to promote competition and innovation that would expand broadband access. He has a history of defending net neutrality and has fought to expand the amount of spectrum available for next-generation wireless networks.
He has sponsored several telecommunications bills that have been signed into law. Among them are measures that expanded opportunities for community groups to receive broadcast licenses and that repealed a requirement that consumers re-sign the do-not-call registry every five years.
The subcommittee also handles legislation on cable and broadcast television, public safety communication, technology and cybersecurity. It sets policy for the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Communications.
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