With a Republican takeover of the House appearing more and more likely, it’s probably not premature to consider the question of committee chairmanships in the next Congress. One such key chairmanship is that of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which handles not only energy policy, but health care policy as well.
As I explained here, Rep. Joe Barton, the Ranking Member of the Committee, faces a tenure limitation problem — the service limit Republicans impose on a member’s eligibility to be the ranking member or chairman of a committee expires this year. Thus, Rep. Fred Upton, currently the ranking member of the Energy and Environment subcommittee, is making a move for the chairmanship, and is considered the front-runner.
The problem is that Upton is not a conservative. His voting record leaves no doubt of this. For example, Upton was one of only three Republicans to oppose extending the Bush tax cuts. He also voted with the Democrats in their effort to make future tax cuts harder to pass. And he opposed Republican amendments to the stimulus bill which would have substituted tax cuts for stimulus money. Upton also voted against an amendment to cut $355 billion out of the stimulus legislation.
By the same token, Upton voted in favor of the Democrats’ $409 billion Ominbus Appropriations Act of 2009, which increased federal spending by 8.4 percent and gave President Obama $19 billion more than he had requested. Twenty Democrats voted against this Act, but (as Hubert Humphrey might have said) not Congressman Upton.
Upton’s record is also decidedly non-conservative when it comes to energy and environmental issues. He has voted consistently to place more federal land off limits to domestic energy production. He voted for a bill to eliminate 1.2 million acres from mineral leasing and erergy exploration in Wyoming, thereby withdrawing an estimated 331 million barrels of recoverable oil and 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from domestic energy supply. In addition, Upton helped Democrats pass an omnibus energy bill that imposed new regluations on energy companies and created dozens of new government energy programs.
On the question of climate change, Upton is no skeptic. “Right or wrong,” he proclaimed in February 2009, “the debate over the modeling and science appears to be over.” Right or wrong?
Upton is also the co-author, along with liberal Democrat Jane Harmon, of the ban on incandescent light bulbs. I wrote about that ridiculous piece of legislation here.
Based on this record, Mother Jones has reported that Democratic congressional staffers regard Upton as “someone they can work with on energy and climate issues.” I guess so. The real question is whether Republicans can work with Upton on these issues.
This leads to the question of whether they will have to. Upton appears to be the current Republican leadership’s choice to chair the Committee. However, nothing has happened yet — the decision will be made by steering committee after the election. Moreover, committee chairs will have to be confirmed by a vote of the whole conference, including the new members.
We hope that Upton’s record will, at one stage of the process or another, be deemed too liberal to justify elevating him to chair this vital Committee.
UPDATE: I have only scratched the surface of Rep. Upton’s non-conservative votes. He voted to double the size of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). He has frequently voted in favor of taxpayer-funded abortion, both in America and abroad. He opposed a proceduraal motion to require federally funded abortion clinics to notify the parents of any underage pregnant girl before performing an abortion on her.
Upton also voted with the Democrats to condemn the Iraq surge and spoke on behalf of this resolution on the House floor. Upton told the House that American troops “are viewed as part of the problem, not the solution” and that he believes “this surge strategy will fail.” The surge proved to be crucial in turning the tide in our favor, and in favor of the Iraq people.
Upton has also voted with the left on such agenda items as lifting the trade embargo and travel restrictions on Cuba and opposing the development of a missile defense.
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