Desire to Be in Driver's Seat Takes Back Seat at Auto Show

Dingell and Pelosi visited the hybrid-vehicle display and smiled for the cameras, but they had little to say about their committee dispute.
Dingell and Pelosi visited the hybrid-vehicle display and smiled for the cameras, but they had little to say about their committee dispute. (By Jay Mallin -- Bloomberg News)
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 25, 2007

A highly choreographed peace accord was reached in the middle of the Washington Convention Center yesterday, when Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) escorted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) through the auto show, hoping to smooth over the public rift that erupted between them last week.

Pelosi irritated Dingell by announcing her desire to create a special committee on global warming. As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell had planned hearings on global warming and saw Pelosi's proposed committee as an affront to his authority. Dingell, the longest-serving House member, sent a memo to colleagues that called special committees as relevant as "feathers on a fish." He and others threatened to fight Pelosi's plan.

Pelosi, meanwhile, believes Democrats must show a sense of urgency about carbon emissions and has called for an aggressive schedule that would develop legislation to address the problem by July. She thinks a select committee on energy independence and climate change would demonstrate the party is serious about action.

To soften the edges of the turf battle, Dingell's wife, Debbie, an executive with General Motors Corp., suggested that he invite Pelosi to the Washington Auto Show to see the hybrid vehicles manufactured in his home state.

Which is how Dingell and Pelosi wound up riding in an electric golf cart through the cavernous convention hall, past the banana-yellow Hummers and blue Saab convertibles until they reached the small display of hybrids in the back.

They were trailed by a group of photographers and reporters, who pinned them up against a baby-blue Ford Escape hybrid that runs on ethanol. Two Ford salesmen appeared and opened the doors so Pelosi could see the car's pale gray interior. Pelosi nodded appreciatively as the salesmen talked about capacity and mileage. The group strode to the rear and gazed into the open hatchback.

Cameras clicked.

Dingell and Pelosi refused to answer questions about whether they had resolved their dispute over the special committee or saw eye-to-eye on global warming.

"I won't talk to you about that now," Dingell said.

"That's not the subject we're here to discuss today," Pelosi said.

"She's here to learn about our business and be supportive," Dingell said, putting an arm against her back.

"I was honored by the invitation," Pelosi said.

Cameras clicked.

Pelosi allowed that she bought a Jeep Cherokee in 1976 and has owned several in the years since but does not drive herself around anymore. She said she'd like to ride in a hybrid SUV, but her security team forbids it.

"They said it was something about the size," she said.

Cameras clicked.

Then, 20 minutes of peacemaking over, Pelosi, Dingell and their entourage walked to a rear exit and climbed into two gas-guzzling Chevy Suburbans.

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