Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) showed clout in his first act as House Commerce Committee chairman yesterday by abolishing the consumer affairs subcommittee headed by the committee's second-ranking Democrat, Rep. James H. Scheuer (D-N.Y.), for whom Dingell has little regard.
By a vote of 14 to 7, Democrats on the committee went along with Dingell's planto restructure the panel by splitting the energy subcommittee in two to handle an expected heavier load and to abolish the consumer panel to make up for it.
Scheuer had chargedthis was a personal vendetta by Dingell, a leading championof the auto industry, to get back at Scheuer for pushing airbags as a safety feature in autos. The consumer protectionfunction will be combined in a communication subcommittee under Rep. Timothy E. Wirth (D-Colo.). The two new energy subcommittees will be headed by Reps. Richard L. Ottinger (D-N.Y.) and Philip R. Sharp (D-Ind.), Dingell, who has headed the energy subcommittee for several years, will take over theoversight subcommittee.
Dingell won over opposition by consumer groups by promising young liberals on the energy subcommittee they could serve on both energy panels. Scheuer called the action "a loss for consumers."
After losing his subcommittee, Scheuer said he would not challenge for any other subcommittee chair and thus will be in the unusual position of being second ranking on the full committee without any power base. Scheuer said he will seek to reclaim the chairmanship of a research and development subcommittee on the Science Committee. Except for Dingell, all Commerce subcommittee chairmen are members of the big post-Watergate class of1974 which is now moving into positions of power.