Barton gets help from former committee heads in effort to lead Energy panel

“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,” former Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer (R-Texas), former Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) and Rep. Don YoungDon YoungHouse Republican causes stir claiming female lawmaker 'doesn’t know a damn thing' Alaska lobbies for defense boost after North Korea launch Puerto Rico statehood bid a total failure MORE (R-Alaska) — former chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure and Resources panels — wrote in a letter to the House GOP Majority Transition Team.

Barton chaired the panel for two years before Democrats took over in 2006. He was then ranking Republican for four years.

A 17-year-old Republican Conference rule states, “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.”

House GOP leaders say this is clear in requiring Barton to receive a waiver to serve as chairman of the panel in the next Congress, which they are not planning to grant him.

They point to Rep. Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteLawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program House votes to crack down on undocumented immigrants with gang ties House Judiciary Dems want panel to review gun silencer bill MORE (R-Va.), who was denied another two years as top Republican on the Agriculture Committee this Congress after serving four years as chairman and two years as ranking member.

But Archer, Shuster and Young point out that Senate Republicans “adopted the same ambiguous language and have since clarified it to mean that no one can serve more than six years as chairman and six years as ranking member.”

Regardless, House GOP leaders are looking to get rid of Barton, who they say ignored their calls to replace his staff director and made an embarrassing gaffe by apologizing to BP during a hearing in the midst of this summer’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Barton quickly apologized for that apology and has since raised a lot of money for fellow Republicans.

The leading candidate for the Energy and Commerce gavel is Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and Barton has been trying to undermine Upton's conservative bona fides. If Upton’s candidacy gets tripped up, House GOP leaders expect Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) to get the job.