It’s been clear for some time that Rep. Fred Upton, a moderate, would be selected to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This unfortunate reality was confirmed today when the Republican House steering committee tapped him for the job. The selection of Upton, the choice of Speaker John Boehner, needs to be ratified by the Republican caucus, but there is no doubt it will be.
As we have shown, Upton is not a conservative when it comes to matters pertaining to “energy and commerce” or to an array of other important issues. To overcome this problem, which for a serious conservative caucus would have been disqualifying, he pledged to take several conservative stands.
The fact that Upton had to take a pledge says it all. The Republicans should have selected one of their many legislators to whom conservatism comes naturally. Then, no pledge would have been required and Republicans could have confidence that the chairman will adopt conservative positions on issues not covered by a pledge.
Also telling is Politico’s report that Rep. Joe Barton, who had been the ranking Republican on the committee, “angered GOP leadership by allowing committee staff to circulate an internal memo pinpointing Upton’s moderate voting record.” (Barton was a contender for the committee chair, though certainly not the only alternative to Upton).
In other words, the GOP House leadership is more concerned with etiquette than with ideology. It would rather have one of the most important committees in the House led by a moderate — among many other things, Upton opposed extending the Bush tax cuts, opposed cuts to stimulus legislation, favored placing vast swaths of land off-limits to energy exploration, and co-authored the infamous ban on incandescent light bulbs — than by a conservative who allegedly caused this sorry voting record to come more widely to light.
On this evidence at least, Speaker Boehner and his fellow old bulls seem more committed to preserving a club-like House than to pursuing conservative goals and principles steadfastly.
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