Lawmaker eyes return to powerful chairmanship

Lawmaker eyes return to powerful chairmanship
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Rep. Joe Barton wants another shot at the House Energy and Commerce Committee's gavel.

“I believe I could be chairman for two more terms,” the Texas Republican told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in an interview published on Saturday.

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“I’m certainly not the leading candidate, but I was chairman for one term and ranking member for two terms. Under the right set of circumstances, I’d have a very good opportunity to be chairman. I’d be an activist, can-do chairman.”

Barton served as chairman of the panel from 2004 until Democrats took the majority in the House in the 2006 midterms. He then served another two terms as the committee’s ranking member.

When Barton again sought the gavel in 2010, he was unable to get a waiver exempting him from a rule limiting lawmakers' terms at the helm of a committee. Michigan Rep. Fred Upton (R) instead won the chairmanship and has presided over the panel since then.

The committee’s jurisdiction is famously broad, crafting policies that touch on the environment, technology and healthcare, among other areas.

Barton’s run would put him up against Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the communications and technology subcommittee's chairman, as well as Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

Shimkus, the chairman of  the environment and the economy subcommittee, has been open about his interest in the position. He has said that he’s wary of openly campaigning for the job for now, however, because it could undermine Upton’s work.

Walden has one potential advantage over the field: He is chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which raises money for lawmakers and supports them in their races.

“I’m second in seniority on Energy and Commerce,” Walden told The Hill last month. “Would I like to be chairman someday, this day, tomorrow? Yeah. It’s a great committee. I love that committee. I’m chairman of the subcommittee on communications and technology.”

“That would be a very interesting and important and fulfilling job to take on. I think I’d be good at it. I think I’ve had good success at our subcommittee,” he said. “But I’m not out campaigning to be chairman of Energy and Commerce at the moment.”

Chairmanship decisions will be made after the November elections.