A majority of returning House Energy &
Commerce Committee Republican members, including John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and
Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who were potential candidates themselves for the
chairmanship of the powerful committee, are supporting Joe Barton (R-Tex.) for
That is according to a "dear colleague" letter
being circulated by those legislators, according to Barton's office, which
supplied a copy of the letter, which seeks those colleagues' support for
E&C has oversight of the FCC, and Barton
has pledged close scrutiny of the FCC's moves.
Others signing on to the letter of support were
Ralph Hall (R-Tex.), Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Michael Burgess
(R-Tex.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Steve Scalise, (R-La.). In the
letter, they said Barton "has provided unyielding conservative
leadership," a telling phrase given that Barton has been positioning his
chief rival for the post, Fred Upton (R-Mich.) as a moderate. Upton, in turn,
has been countering with an emphasis on his fiscal conservatism, his effort to
crack down on broadcast indecency (he co-authored the bill raising the fines),
opposition to the Obama healthcare bill, opposition to federally funded
abortion, and his ties to conservative icon Ronald Reagan. In fact, in his
announcement for the post, Upton described himself first as a "former
budget aide to President Ronald Reagan."
"Our friend and committee leader has been a
principled conservative who you can count on in committee and on the
floor," the letter said of Barton. "He served one term as our
chairman, and we believe it is essential to the new mission of all Republicans
in the House that he have the opportunity to serve a second term."
Not long after Barton's office e-mailed a copy of
the "dear colleague" letter, Upton's office sent out an op-ed from The Hill newspaper by Rep. Sue Myrick
(R-N.C.) supporting Upton's chairmanship and headlined: "Upton is
Committed To Conservative Principles."
Barton is generally thought to need a waiver of
Republican term limits of six years on chairmanships and ranking member posts.
He was chairman for one term and ranking member
for two. But Barton has argued that a number of Republican ranking members were
permitted to assume chairmanships in 1994 that pushed them past the term limits
adopted in 1993.
Upton is the former chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee
and has also pledged muscular oversight over federal agencies.