Policy

Greg Walden Endorsed for House Energy and Commerce Chairman

Phil Roe picked to head VA panel

Oregon Rep. Greg Walden will chair the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee next year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

By Joe Williams and Lindsey McPherson
CQ Roll Call

Rep. Greg Walden won a key vote on Thursday to become the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The House Steering Committee, a group of Republicans in charge of selecting chairmanship positions, picked Walden in a closed-door vote. The panel will submit its recommendations to be ratified by the full Republican conference on Friday in what is largely a formality.

The Oregon Republican was locked in a tight race against Illinois Rep. John Shimkus and former panel chairman Joe Barton of Texas, who mounted a dark-horse campaign in recent weeks, to replace Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan at the helm of the powerful committee. Republican rules prevent Upton from serving as chairman again next year.

Energy and Commerce is expected to hold immense influence in the 115th Congress. With its jurisdiction over issues related to health, energy, telecommunications and internet policymaking, the panel will have a role in several high-profile Republican efforts, including repealing and replacing the 2010 health care overhaul.

Walden, 59, who for the past four years served as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was able to invigorate his campaign in recent weeks following a better-than-expected outcome in the November elections for House Republicans.

[Shimkus, Walden Ramp Up Campaign for Energy and Commerce Gavel]

In another contested race, the committee picked Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe to chair the Veterans’ Affairs Committee over Colorado Reps. Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman. Roe will replace retiring Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida.

Roe, 71, said he was not told what the margin of victory was but that he had heard a “rumor” it was a voice vote.

A Vietnam era veteran who grew up in a military town and represents a district with 70,000 veterans, Roe has served on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee for eight years. Although he spent most of his pre-congressional career as a gynecologist, his practice included five doctors who were veterans and served veteran patients.

“I have a VA medical center a mile from where I live,” he said. “I’ve been on that campus a bazillion times.”

Roe said his legislative priorities including giving the Veterans Affairs Department the choice to send veterans to outside medical facilities and creating a larger vision for the VA.

“The only way you’re going to get the VA’s attention is to put the veteran back in charge of choosing where they go,” he said.

Asked how his goals for veterans align with President-elect Donald Trump’s ideas, Roe said, “I read his 10 points; eight of them I totally agree with. A couple of them I’d have to debate.” He declined to say on which two points their views differ.

The Steering Committee on Thursday also officially recommended Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, 70, to chair the Appropriations Committee, which oversees federal discretionary spending. Frelinghuysen ran unopposed and officially secured the blessing of the Steering Committee after an interview before the panel earlier in the day.

In another uncontested race, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina was picked to replace retiring Rep. John Kline of Minnesota atop the Education and the Workforce Committee.

Although the Steering Committee typically factors seniority heavily into its decisions, both its picks for contested races were not the candidates with the most seniority. Shimkus is more senior than Walden, and Lamborn outranks Roe in seniority.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan also announced his picks for the House GOP leadership’s appointed chairmanships. Mississippi Rep. Gregg Harper will replace retiring Rep. Candice S. Miller of Michigan as chairman of the House Administration Committee, and Indiana Rep. Susan W. Brooks will succeed Pennsylvania’s Charlie Dent atop the House Ethics Committee.

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