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DeFazio Tapped as Top Democrat on House Natural Resources Panel After Rival Withdraws

Grijalva confirmed in an interview on Thursday evening that some Congressional Hispanic Caucus members did voice a preference that he remain a candidate, but he said nobody strong-armed him or pressured him to stay in the race.

“The only pressure was from some members peripheral to the issue, saying, ‘you got to do this for the greater good,’” Grijalva explained, adding that Congressional Hispanic Caucus leaders only requested that he wait until the 3 p.m. Democratic Caucus meeting to make his decision public.

Pelosi sent out an official statement later Thursday to announce the outcome of the caucus meeting and praise both lawmakers.

DeFazio, she said, has served on the panel for “more than a quarter-century ... with passion and vigor, with a keen intellect and an independent streak.”

Grijalva, she continued, was “a progressive leader” who would continue, as ranking member on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Subcommittee, “to promote conservation, defend public lands and strengthen our beautiful national parks.”

As the new ranking member on the powerful panel, DeFazio is expected to be a reliable Democratic ally on most environmental concerns — he boasts an 89 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters — though environmental groups haven’t forgotten past breaks with the party, such as on bills to limit the EPA’s authority to regulate coal ash and pollution from industrial boilers.

Most notably, DeFazio voted against the 2009 bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions written by Markey and Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif. The “cap and trade” measure passed the House, but was never taken up in the Senate.

In a separate press release announcing his victory, DeFazio pledged to “push for a 21st century energy policy,” work toward committee action on climate change and seek to overhaul legislation that dictates how mining royalties are disbursed.

After a race for the slot that began before Markey had even won the special election to replace now-Secretary of State John Kerry, Grijalva congratulated DeFazio, referring to him in the letter to Pelosi as a “friend.”

Perhaps signalling the extent to which the competition grew personal over the course of the campaign, DeFazio made no mention of Grijalva in his own statement.

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