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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 BishopRepublicans in campaign mode for top spots on House environmental committees Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it 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 WestermanOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Republicans in campaign mode for top spots on House environmental committees | Peterson loss prompts scramble for House Agriculture chair Republicans in campaign mode for top spots on House environmental committees COVID-19 complicates California's record-setting wildfire season  MORE (Ark.), Doug LambornDouglas (Doug) LambornCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview Republicans in campaign mode for top spots on House environmental committees Iran must free Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani MORE (Colo.), Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockGOP lawmaker defends Newsom for breaking 'idiotic' COVID-19 rules GOP's McClintock fends off challenger in California Republicans in campaign mode for top spots on House environmental committees MORE (Calif.) and Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarDemocrat O'Halleran wins reelection in Arizona House race Lil Jon slams Paul Gosar: 'Don't quote my songs' Hundreds of Trump supporters protest election results in Pennsylvania 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 YoungCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 US reaches grim milestone of 250,000 coronavirus deaths MORE (R-Alaska), who has already served as chairman, and Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter tests positive for coronavirus 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 ThornberryOvernight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses Defense bill moves to formal negotiations with Confederate name fight looming Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' MORE (R-Texas), is retiring. And Rep. Paul CookPaul Joseph CookLawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money following Treasury delays The 14 other key races to watch on Super Tuesday Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel 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 McCarthyRichmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight Drastic cuts proposed to Medicare would hurt health care quality 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 GravesNew Interior order undermines conservation bill Trump campaigned on, critics say OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden expected to issue swift reversals on climate | Senate proposes spending increase at environmental agencies | Court halts permits for contentious Mountain Valley Pipeline Trump administration submits list of conservation projects after the deadline 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.”