Californians Shape Up as Force on Environmental Policy
Monday, December 29, 2008; Page A03
California Democrats will assume pivotal roles in the new Congress and White House, giving the state an outsize influence over federal policy and increasing the likelihood that its culture of activist regulation will be imported to Washington.
In Congress, Democrats from the Golden State are in key positions to write laws to mitigate global warming, promote "green" industries and alternative energy, and crack down on toxic chemicals. Down Pennsylvania Avenue, Californians in the new White House will shape environmental, energy and workplace safety policies.
"It's unique in terms of the power of this state in modern times," said James A. Thurber, who directs the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies atAmerican University. To find another example of a state wielding such national influence, Thurber had to reach back to Texas in the 1950s, when Sam Rayburn was the House speaker and Lyndon B. Johnson was the Senate majority leader.
The current speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is the most prominent member of the California delegation. As leader of a sometimes fractious caucus, Pelosi has had to find common ground between conservative and liberal Democrats. But she has been firm about her intention to bring the kind of climate-change legislation embraced by California to the national level, and she was quietly supportive when a California colleague, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, pushed outRep. John D. Dingell of Michigan to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.