Don’t expect many new faces atop the House committees under GOP control.
Although most of the new Republican chairmen appear set, at least nominal fights are possible for top slots on the Appropriations, Energy and Commerce and Financial Services committees — three of the four exclusive committees.
For months, Rep. Joe Barton has been angling to return as chairman of Energy and Commerce. and he did not waste a moment after the GOP swept the House to begin his official campaign.
“I think I’ve got the experience and the ability to not just work with the Republicans but also work with the Democrats and deliver on repealing Obamacare, deliver on protecting the Internet from FCC regulation, deliver from enacting any aggressive cap-and-trade bill,” the Texas Republican said Tuesday night in Washington, as he wore a “Boehner for Speaker” sticker on his lapel.
But Barton’s bid isn’t likely to be successful, GOP aides have said; he needs a Conference waiver from term limits to get the gavel, and Members are still angry about his apology to BP during a Congressional hearing on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) also is vying for the Energy and Commerce job, and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) is likely to run as well if Barton does not get a waiver.
The fight for the Appropriations chairmanship comes against a backdrop of an internal GOP debate over earmarks.
Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told local papers last week that he has the votes on the GOP’s steering panel to become the next chairman of Appropriations, although Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the ranking member and former chairman, is expected to seek a waiver that would allow him to chair it again. Both have been strong supporters of earmarks and have bragged about their power to bring projects back to their states, but Lewis last week backed an extension of the earmark moratorium.
"He knows the leadership doesn't support earmarks, at least for the next Congress," said a Republican aide.
Lewis also doesn't want earmarks to be a distraction when the GOP brings forward bills cutting spending next year, the aide said. And with a new GOP majority intent on slashing discretionary spending by $100 billion a year, the new chairman will have to spend most of his time allocating cuts rather than spreading the wealth.
The Financial Services gavel could also see a race, although ranking Rep. Spencer Bachus (Ala.) appears to have the edge despite potential interest in the post from Rep. Ed Royce (Calif.) and other more junior Members. Bachus hasn’t always been in good stead with the GOP leadership — including in 2008, when leaders cut him out of negotiations on the Troubled Asset Relief Program — but he has been a strong fundraiser and a party loyalist this cycle.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.