By Ben Geman - 11/18/10 12:13 AM EST
A House Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee is urging GOP leaders to quickly settle the panel's chairmanship.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) warns that if they do not step in, the fight could drag on and impair the panel’s work next year.
“My ask to leadership is, fix this as quickly as you reasonably can because it is not helping us,” Burgess told E2. “All of this palace intrigue right now is, I think, destructive.”
Burgess spoke to E2 Wire in the Capitol on Wednesday, and said the battle had been “acrimonious” and “painful to watch.”
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the panel’s senior Republican, wants to be chairman in the next Congress. But he would have to receive a term-limit waiver, one that GOP leaders seem unlikely to grant.
Barton, for his part, says caucus rules are ambiguous and should not prevent him from serving another term atop the panel.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is also gunning for the top slot and is believed to be the leading candidate, but his critics argue he’s too moderate and are circulating research on his voting record to make their case.
Two other committee Republicans – John Shimkus (Ill.) and Cliff Stearns (Fla.) – want the job if Barton is thwarted.
Burgess is backing Barton. “In Texas we’re always for the Texan until we can’t be for the Texan,” he said. But above all he wants the four-way battle to end.
“My appeal is that they need to sort this out quickly,” he said when asked if he would appeal Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.) – who will Speaker and Majority Leader, respectively, in the next Congress – on Barton’s behalf.
“It does none of us any good to have this level of acrimony at the top of the dais, and it has been acrimonious, it has been uncomfortable, it has been painful to watch, just as a committee member,” said Burgess. “It puts all of us in a very difficult position.”
He said the battle could affect the committee’s work next year. The committee’s broad jurisdiction encompasses energy policy, health care, telecommunications and other areas.
“We have got an enormous amount of work to do on the committee,” he said, alleging Democrats have done “virtually no oversight” of the new health care law.
“We have to be ready to go work on Day One, and unfortunately if there’s any hangover from the fight at the top of the dais, it does not do us any good,” said Burgess, who is currently the ranking Republican on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.