Just when you thought all the pleasant surprises of the election must be spent, one more appears in your inbox on a Friday afternoon. Senator John Warner is going to reassert his seniority on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee to be the Republicans’ ranking member, forcing every polluter’s favorite Senator James Inhofe into the number two position.

Warner doesn’t have the greenest record in the Republican caucus, but this year he has said some interesting things about climate change. Interesting in a good way, not interesting in an Inhofe way.

As reported by Greenwire (subscription required), Warner has a more moderate view on climate change, recognizing the scientific evidence and the need for Congress to look at the issue. Back in February he said, “I’m beginning to have more of an open mind on the issue of global warming. Bit by bit, the evidence is coming out. We here in the Congress ought to be looking at it.”

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This represents a change even from June 2005 when Warner voted against Sen. Bingaman’s Sense of the Senate resolution on climate change that was adopted as part of the Senate energy bill.

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Update [2006-11-26 7:56:0 by Ana Unruh Cohen]: My bad. Turns out Warner voted the right way on this resolution. The vote was to table, i.e. kill, the amendment so the vote for taking action on climate change was a nay. So having defeated the attempt to table the resolution, it was accepted by voice vote. My apologies to Sen. Warner.

Inhofe has vowed to fight for the ranking member chair, but the facts and recent precedent seem to be stacked against him. Warner has been a member of the panel seven years more than Inhofe. In 2004, Sen. Arlen Specter asserted his seniority to take the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. In January, the members of the EPW Committee will choose a Ranking Member, and the Republican Caucus will then ratify or reject their choice.

Warner has been the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee for the past six years and under Republican rules can no longer serve as the top Republican there.

So what does Ranking Member Warner mean? Better for the climate, but bad for comedians.

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