Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel

Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel
© Greg Nash

Several House Republicans are eyeing a run for the top GOP seat on the Natural Resources Committee, which will be vacant after the retirement at the end of this Congress of Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower cites Trump tweets as impetus for California emissions probe | Democrats set July vote for major conservation bill, blaming Republicans for delay | Trump vows crackdown on monument vandalism Democrats set July vote for major conservation bill, blaming Republicans for delay Natural Resources Democrats again rebuff Republican complaints about virtual meetings MORE (Utah).

More than four members on the panel have voiced interest in taking over the powerful position. The possible contenders include Reps. Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanNatural Resources Democrats again rebuff Republican complaints about virtual meetings OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance GOP fighting 'misleading' Democratic forums on House Natural Resources Committee MORE (Ark.), Doug LambornDouglas (Doug) LambornHouse GOP urge Trump against supporting additional funding for state and local governments House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought Overnight Energy: Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel | GOP lawmakers push back on bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners | Green groups sue Trump over California fracking plans MORE (Colo.), Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockDemocrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers Hoyer says Democratic leaders mulled requiring masks on House floor Mask-wearing becomes political even as some governors ease resistance MORE (Calif.) and Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarHouse Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks OVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower cites Trump tweets as impetus for California emissions probe | Democrats set July vote for major conservation bill, blaming Republicans for delay | Trump vows crackdown on monument vandalism Democrats set July vote for major conservation bill, blaming Republicans for delay MORE (Ariz.).

The role comes with a broad portfolio to oversee energy and mineral resources, water, oceans and wildlife, as well as Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring, making it an attractive position for members representing states with rich natural resources.

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One member who is already gearing up for the contest is Westerman, whose office recently sent out a note to GOP media contacts asking for them to reach out if they have previously “helped a current or former boss with a committee chairmanship run” before, according to a screenshot obtained by The Hill.

When asked whether he intends to throw his name in the ring, Westerman told The Hill: “I am looking at it.”

The Arkansas Republican, who describes himself on his website as an “engineer and forester by trade,” said that while it will be a great honor to serve in such a role, his current priority is regaining the House majority.

While Westerman is ninth in seniority among Republicans on the panel, which puts him behind several members also eyeing the spot, he is seen as a strong contender for the role. 

Lamborn is fourth in seniority, behind Bishop, Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungHillicon Valley: Apple, Google launch virus tracing system | Republican says panel should no longer use Zoom | Lawmakers introduce bill to expand telehealth House lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to expand telehealth services Campaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis MORE (R-Alaska), who has already served as chairman, and Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertGOP-Trump fractures on masks open up Democrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers Justice Department officials say decisions are politicized MORE (R-Texas), whom GOP leadership is unlikely to consider because of his reputation as a conservative bomb-thrower.  

“I am interested, yes,” Lamborn said when asked by The Hill about the role. He added that his “goal right now is to make sure Republicans are in the majority so that we are talking about chairmanships and not ranking memberships.”

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McClintock is also believed to be interested in the role, according to a GOP source, but he declined to discuss the matter when asked by The Hill. He is sixth in seniority on the panel.

Gosar, who is seventh in seniority, is also expressing interest in the position.

“I am very accomplished with getting stuff done,” Gosar said, pointing to the way he helped turn the Western Caucus from a “sleepy” caucus into a “powerhouse.”

Gosar may be an unlikely contender, however, given a series of controversial tweets that have sparked a bit of a blowback. A GOP source familiar with the matter says Republican leadership has bristled at some of his messages on Twitter.

Several other members who are also senior members also have other reasons for not jockeying for this role.

Rep. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanTrade groups make lobbying push to be included in small business loan program Overnight Defense: 32 dead in ISIS-claimed attack in Kabul | Trump says Taliban could 'possibly' overrun Afghan government when US leaves | House poised for Iran war powers vote next week Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel MORE (R-Va.), who is fifth in seniority, is believed to be more interested in vying for the opening top seat on the House Armed Services Committee now that the panel’s ranking member, Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide House panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House Armed Services votes to make Pentagon rename Confederate-named bases in a year MORE (R-Texas), is retiring. And Rep. Paul CookPaul Joseph CookThe 14 other key races to watch on Super Tuesday Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel Warren bill would revoke Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee massacre MORE (R-Calif.), who is eighth in seniority, is planning to retire after this term.

Bishop, when asked about who is best poised to be his replacement, declined to name a specific individual, but the Utah Republican said each of the four named would bring a unique skill set to the position.

“Lamborn has been a subcommittee chair all over the place so he knows land issues, water issues, energy issues — he is that experienced. McClintock has been one of our go-to [members] for subcommittee chairs. He does his homework, he is always prepared for what he is doing,” Bishop told The Hill in an interview.

“Gosar has the Western Caucus so he knows all those people and the issues at the same time. And Westerman is like our resident forester, who once again has a unique perspective on those issues and has also traveled frequently to other events that we have had,” he added.

The Republican Steering Committee — a conglomeration of top Republicans who select who sits on and leads certain House panels — will decide who will ultimately take on the role. Those members take account of a series of factors including seniority, experience and the preferences of GOP leadership. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention MORE (R-Calif.) will have a heavy hand in deciding the next GOP panel leader. His vote counts as four votes, compared to most other members, who receive just one. 

In many cases, members can go in and pitch why they are seeking a certain leadership role. The panel then votes on its decisions shortly after the elections.

Prior to that, interested parties will likely begin preparing their visions for how they will lead the committee as well as voicing interest to the deciding parties.

And while such a vote is months away, some Republicans on the panel already are throwing their support behind candidates for the role.

“When you look at the top tier of the committee, I think that [Westerman] is absolutely one of the best choices,” said Rep. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesOvernight Energy: Biden campaign says he would revoke Keystone XL permit | EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement | Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings Overnight Energy: Murkowski fumes over stalled energy bill | White House weighs help for oil, gas industry | Dem presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations MORE (R-La.) when asked about potential contenders for the role. “I think he’s got an excellent background. I think he’s articulate and really well-versed in the issues.”