House Republicans Unite Behind Key Committee Chairmen

The House Republican Conference met on Wednesday morning and unanimously voted for the slate of committee chairmen, who were selected by the House Steering Committee last night. The committee chairs will be tasked with implementing the Republican “Pledge to America” governing agenda when the GOP takes control of the House in January.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) will be Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will handle the process of repealing ObamaCare. Upton, a moderate Republican, has served on the committee since 1991.

Upton campaigned hard to prove that he was conservative enough to enact the Republicans’ Pledge to America policies. “My vision for the Energy and Commerce Committee is a conservative agenda that focuses on cutting spending, removing the regulatory burden, restoring freedom, keeping government accountable through rigorous oversight, and jobs,” wrote Upton in a letter to his GOP colleagues.

In addition to health care, The Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over energy, telecommunications, broadcasting, and environmental issues. Upton has vowed to call EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to testify before the committee regularly to explain the new government regulations in Clean Air Act.

“The Obama administration is on notice—they will not be allowed to regulate what they have been unable to legislate.”

“We face many challenges, but priority number one is to repeal the job-killing Obamacare law,” Barton said in a statement.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who wanted an extension to the six-year term limit for committee chairs, waged a strong campaign for chairman against Upton. The other contenders for chair, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), gave their support to Upton.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) will be Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which determines all of the government spending levels. Rogers campaigned for the chairmanship against current ranking member Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). Lewis was term-limited so he needed a waiver to have another two-year term. Kingston ran as the fiscal conservative alternative to Rogers and Lewis.

Conservative groups opposed Rogers because of his history of earmarks for his district during the 27 years he has been on the Appropriations Committee. House Republicans voted for a moratorium on earmarks, and Rogers, consequently, signed onto the pledge.

Kingston was endorsed for the position by Club for Growth and other conservative groups because of his fiscal discipline. In the end, however, the leadership decided against upsetting the system of rankings and terms, and selected Rogers. 

Rogers released a statement in which he promised to fight “for serious reforms of the Committee, bringing fiscal sanity back to our budgeting process, performing vigorous oversight of the failed job-creation policies of the Obama Administration and moving our nation forward.”

The other contested chair race was for the Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking regulations and Wall Street.  The current ranking member, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) was selected to take over the committee. Bachus was nominally challenged by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who ran on the platform that he was better able to fix the stimulus-funded Freddie Mae and Fannie.

Bachus released a statement after the conference meeting, which said that the committee will “protect taxpayers by ending ‘too big to fail’ and the Administration’s unlimited bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

He also stated that, “we are committed to going title by title through the 2,300 page Dodd-Frank Act to correct, replace, or repeal the job killing provisions that unnecessarily punish small businesses and community banks that did nothing to cause the financial crisis.”

The Republican Conference election was a quick vote to approve the Steering Committee’s slate. The Steering Committee is made up of 34 Members, which includes all of the Republican leadership, key committee chairs and regional representatives. Speaker of the House designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) has four votes, Majority Leader to-be Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has two votes, and the rest have one vote each.

“The members of our new majority have made a pledge to America to focus on the American people’s priorities—helping small businesses create jobs, cutting spending, repealing the job-killing health care law, protecting life, and reforming the way Congress works,” said Boehner in a statement released Tuesday evening.

“Each of the candidates recommended by the Steering Committee today has committed to advancing these priorities if entrusted with the responsibility of serving the people of this nation as a committee chair.”
The chairs of the other important House committees were not contested, and given to the ranking member of the committee. Rep Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) will chair the Budget Committee.  Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) will once again be Chairman of the important Rules Committee. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will be Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) will chair the Judiciary Committee.

And Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.) will be the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which determines tax policies. In a statement, Camp said that the committee “will focus on a job-creating agenda and reducing out-of-control federal spending.”