Rep. John D. Dingell's retirement clears the way for a head-to-head battle between Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Anna G. Eshoo of California to ascend to the top slot of the Energy and Commerce Committee that Dingell held for decades.
The spot came open when Henry A. Waxman of California announced his own retirement. Dingell expressed a possible interest in running while Pallone and Eshoo quickly released statements saying they were in the race .
Dingell would have had an advantage in seniority but would have faced a tough fight. One reason his colleagues ousted him in exchange for Waxman in 2008 was because they preferred the latter lawmaker's more liberal policy agenda, particularly on climate legislation.
Incidentally, Pallone was the first of the two to release a statement praising Dingell's tenure — particularly his legislative milestones on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
"I wish him the best of luck and look forward to continuing to work together to improve public health and protect consumers and the environment," Pallone said.