Score one round this morning for Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Waxman’s panel is among those investigating the Bush administration’s decision — contrary to EPA staff advice — to reject California’s greenhouse-gas standards for vehicles. He wants to interview seven key EPA staffers without the presence of government lawyers, who would be expected to interfere with the questioning.

The Bush administration has been balking at this request, so Waxman was preparing to ask his committee to vote today to issue subpoenas. But the Bush administration blinked — at least a little. Waxman announced at a committee meeting this morning that he was postponing a subpoena vote for now, because the Bush administration had agreed to permit two of the seven EPA staffers to be interviewed without government lawyers present. The fate of the other five EPA staffers remains under negotiation.

This investigation is a little like peeling away layers of a foul-smelling onion: the stench at the center is enough to make one cry.

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