GOP Energy Committee Fight Gets Ugly

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I reported recently that Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.)—famed of late for his apology (and later apology for that apology) to BP—is seeking a term limit waiver so he can again serve as chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Well, there’s been plenty of action recently when it comes to GOP jockeying for top spot on this key panel.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) still looks like the frontrunner for the post. Republican caucus rules state, “No individual shall serve more than three consecutive terms as chairman or ranking member of a standing, select, joint or ad hoc committee or subcommittee,” which preclude Barton, currently the ranking member, from taking the post. That is, unless he can convince fellow Republicans to give him a free pass for another turn.

Meanwhile, someone—allegedly team Barton—has been circulating a detailed, 22-page record of Upton’s voting history, an attempt to prove that he doesn’t have the conservative bonafides to serve in the top spot. Barton told The Hill yesterday that he’s not behind the oppo report. Meanwhile, he is circulating a letter signed by three Republican committee chairmen supporting his bid.

“We believe he deserves that second term now, and that neither the spirit nor the letter of the rule was ever intended to prevent it,” wrote Bill Archer (R-Tex.), Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) in a letter to the House GOP Transition Team this week.

Upton, for his part, has been flexing his conservative credentials in the media, with recent columns in the Washington Times and Human Events highlighting his plans to badger the Environmental Protection Agency and White House Energy and Climate Adviser Carol Browner.

Meanwhile, there’s still an outside chance that someone else on the committee could take the top spot—someone like Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). Shimkus, in an interview with Politico this week, reaffirmed his belief that the climate change isn’t happening because it’s not in the Bible. Yes, you read that right. Shimkus has said for some time that the basis for his disbelief that climate change is an urgent concern is the book of Genesis. Now he could potentially end up in charge of the committee that takes the leading role on this area of policy. If that’s the case, God help us all.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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