In the Obama administration, an important ally in the House for Tom Daschle, who is expected to be named secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, will be Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who unseated John Dingell (D-MI), the long-time top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to become the panel’s new chairman. The House Democratic caucus backed Waxman for the job after a hotly contested campaign in which Waxman claimed to be better positioned to work with the new Obama administration to enact environmental and healthcare legislation.
The change puts a long-time critic of the pharmaceutical industry at the helm of this all-important panel. All healthcare legislation falls under its purview, along with measures affecting FDA and other federal health agencies. Both Dingell and Waxman have long championed universal healthcare, but differed more notably on environmental and clean air policy. A top priority for the new chairman will be to pursue health reform legislation vigorously.