Markey announces bid to be ranking Democrat on Natural Resources

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) on Wednesday officially confirmed widespread expectations and tossed his hat in the ring to seek the top Democratic spot on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Markey — in a letter to fellow House Democrats announcing his intentions — said he is now exercising his right to the seat based on his senior status on the panel.

“I do so because I believe the twin issues of energy and the environment will be of paramount importance in the next Congress, and the Natural Resources Committee will be a critical forum in which the national debate over these issues will be played out,” Markey wrote to his colleagues.

Markey has served on the committee since 1976 and has been the next senior member eligible to lead the Democrats on the panel since 1999. He noted that he elected not to exercise his senior status until now due to his top Democratic spot on a key energy and environment subcommittee on the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well as his chairing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) Energy Independence and Global Warming Select Committee when Democrats took over the House in 2006.

In the letter, Markey touts his involvement in crafting last year’s House climate and economic stimulus bills.

His decision to seek the Natural Resources post is rooted in the possible dismantling of Pelosi’s select committee now that Republicans have taken over the House, as well as House Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall’s (W.Va.) move to become ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee next Congress. Rahall is next in line to lead the Democrats on that panel and does not appear to have any competition for that job.

Markey, on the other hand, faces a challenge from Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who was head of a Natural Resources subcommittee overseeing national parks, forests and public lands this Congress. Grijalva is entering his fifth term in the House.

While Markey’s Massachusetts district may not be a traditional home port for a top member of a panel that has vast oversight over public lands issues, he has been a mouthpiece on offshore oil and gas drilling and other issues related to this summer’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill. “I believe that as our party fights its way back from the losses we suffered in the recent election, it will be important for us to continue to advocate for policies that reduce our dependence on imported oil and address the challenges posed by global warming,” he wrote.

He is also touting his help to fellow Democrats. “I have traveled, I have raised funds, and I have contributed to the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and our candidates every year,” he wrote. “When you add it all up, I believe I have done as much as or more for the DCCC over the last 16 years than any other member of the House who is not in the leadership.” 

Markey is known as a firebrand with a seemingly endless list of ready-made, tongue-in-cheek sound bites, often targeting Republicans, oil companies and other industries.

His announcement ends speculation that he might become the lead Democratic voice on telecommunications issues in the next Congress as ranking member of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee overseeing that issue.

That spot opened up after Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) lost his reelection bid. Observers saw Markey, who has previously led the subcommittee, as a front-runner for the role. Other contenders include Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who has Google's headquarters in her district, and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.). Both have been vocal supporters of net-neutrality policies.      

— Sara Jerome contributed.

This story was updated at 7:50 p.m.