Rep. John Dingell will take the lead on healthcare policy for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce under a deal with Rep. Henry Waxman, who unseated Dingell as chairman of the committee last month.

Dingell’s office said that he and Waxman (D-CA) had agreed that Dingell (D-MI), as “Chairman Emeritus,” “will be the lead sponsor of the national health care legislation that the Committee will consider and play an integral role in the negotiations with the House, Senate and Obama Administration.” He will serve as an ex-officio member of all Energy and Commerce Subcommittees and will be furnished with “a suitable staff” for Committee business.

Dingell backers had been pushing him to take over the health subcommittee, which is currently chaired by Frank Pallone (D-NJ). Dingell headed that subcommittee when, in 1965, the House authorized Medicare, and has submitted universal healthcare legislation every year since 1955, when he entered Congress, as his father did before him during the Truman Administration.  

Waxman told The New York Times Magazine last weekend that he felt sad to challenge Dingell and had hoped he would retire, adding: “We’ve had our differences on environmental issues. I think we need new leadership in the committee in order to move a very active agenda being proposed by the Obama administration.”

Under the direction of Dingell, who presided over Energy and Commerce for 28 years, the committee has launched investigations into DTC, including hearings on campaigns for Lipitor and Vytorin, along with a host of other pharmaceutical promotion practices in recent years. Dingell has also demanded – so far, with little success – that companies commit themselves to a two-year moratorium on consumer ads for new drugs.