From the Los Angeles Times:
Under President Bush, California Democrats often felt like Rodney Dangerfield.
But with Barack Obama headed to the White House — giving their party control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for the first time in 14 years — lawmakers from one of the nation’s bluest states are looking to gain more than just respect. They expect to wield more political clout as well.
Not only will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco preside over a bigger Democratic majority with a friendlier president, but Californians will chair four House committees, more than any other state.
Among them is Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), the newly elected chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who will play a key role in moving forward Obama’s initiatives to expand health insurance coverage and curb global warming.
With California’s Barbara Boxer chairing the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the state’s lawmakers also will be at the forefront of shaping environmental legislation.
“Almost everywhere you look, someone from California is in a position of great influence,” said Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch. And Obama is expected to move quickly to carry out his pledge to reverse the Bush administration’s decision barring California from implementing its own global-warming law.
Reps. Howard L. Berman of Valley Village, George Miller of Martinez and Bob Filner of Chula Vista will continue to chair the foreign affairs, education and labor, and veterans affairs committees, respectively. Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland will be head of the 42-member Congressional Black Caucus. And Rep. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles was recently elected vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Waxman, in vaulting from the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to the Energy and Commerce Committee, gained influence over a broad range of issues of importance to the state, including the entertainment and high-tech industries.
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will continue to sit on the Senate Appropriations Committee and chair the subcommittee that writes the Interior Department’s spending bill.
Oddly enough, a Republican — Jerry Lewis of Redlands, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee — also could play a key role in bringing more money to the state by securing GOP support for spending measures.
Perhaps the biggest change for the state will come from the election of Obama, who carried California by the biggest margin of a presidential election since Franklin D. Roosevelt trounced Alf Landon in 1936.
“We now have a president not hostile to the state of California,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank).
California officials are heartened by Obama’s hiring of former aides to President Clinton, who heaped attention on the Golden State. Clinton traveled to California 56 times during his presidency (Bush has visited the state 22 times), lavished it with money and drew from it for appointments to his administration.
And Obama — who has selected Waxman’s former chief of staff, Phil Schiliro, to be his congressional liaison — is expected to tend to the state, if only because its economy is important to the nation’s overall economic health.
Perhaps nowhere will California’s clout be stronger than in influencing environmental bills. Legislation that would add thousands of acres of wilderness in California is expected to be among the first measures to clear Congress next year.