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 BishopWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Overnight Energy: Panel gives chairman power to subpoena Interior | House passes bill to protect wilderness | House Republicans propose carbon capture bill | Ocasio-Cortez introduces bill to ban fracking House Natural Resources gives Grijalva power to subpoena Interior 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 WestermanLawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers Increased competition, lower costs: A prescription to address medications PRICED out of reach Overnight Energy: New Interior rule would limit scientific studies agency can consider | Panel battles over tree-planting bill | Trump to resume coal leases on public lands MORE (Ark.), Doug LambornDouglas (Doug) LambornOvernight 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 Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel Overnight Energy: Democrats grill BLM chief over plans to move headquarters | EPA moves to end its use of animal testing | Top NOAA official defends Trump over Alabama forecast MORE (Colo.), Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill Hispanic Caucus campaign arm unveils non-Hispanic endorsements Overnight Energy: Panel gives chairman power to subpoena Interior | House passes bill to protect wilderness | House Republicans propose carbon capture bill | Ocasio-Cortez introduces bill to ban fracking MORE (Calif.) and Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington Conservative lawmakers tell Trump to 'back off' attacks on GOP colleague Lawmakers highlight flights back to DC for huge coronavirus vote 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 YoungCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Don Young dismissed 'beer virus,' told seniors to 'go forth with everyday activities' Pelosi stands firm amid calls to close Capitol MORE (R-Alaska), who has already served as chairman, and Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House The Hill's 12:30 Report: What we know about T stimulus deal 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 WittmanOvernight 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 The Suburban Caucus: Solutions for America's suburbs 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 ThornberryPentagon gets heat over protecting service members from coronavirus Top Armed Services Republican unveils proposals on military families, acquisition reform House panel delays consideration of annual defense policy bill 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 McCarthyLawmakers outline proposals for virtual voting Phase-four virus relief hits a wall House GOP leaders back effort to boost small-business loans 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: Murkowski fumes over stalled energy bill | White House weighs help for oil, gas industry | Dem presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations Democrat presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations despite alleged staff objections Overnight Energy: Green groups to sue over Trump rollback of Obama water rules | GOP climate plan faces pushback from right | Bezos launches B climate initiative 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.”