Opinion

America wants Republicans to succeed

Photo of Rep. Joe Barton
Rep. Joe Barton
Chairman Emeritus, House Energy and Commerce Committee
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      Rep. Joe Barton

      Joe Barton was first elected to Congress by the people of Texas' Sixth Congressional District in 1984. In 2004, he was selected by his House colleagues to be the chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the oldest standing legislative committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Among his remarkable predecessors is the late House Speaker Sam Rayburn of Bonham, the third Texan to lead the committee since it was created in 1795.

      The Energy and Commerce Committee of today has accumulated the broadest non-tax jurisdiction of any committee in Congress. It is vested by the House with primary responsibility over matters relating to energy, public health and safety, and the national and international marketplace. The congressman currently serves as its Ranking Republican.

      Called the "House GOP's leading expert on energy policy" by The Wall Street Journal, Barton's tenure in the chair during Republican control of the House was highlighted by the creation and passage of the most comprehensive bipartisan national energy legislation since the 1930s. "It couldn't be done. It hadn't been done. In the end, Joe Barton did it," observed The Dallas Morning News. A proponent of competition, Barton also is responsible for both the first electricity deregulation legislation to pass a House subcommittee, and for legislation which deregulated the natural gas industry. The congressman supports energy policies that yield a reliable supply at affordable prices while also protecting the environment.

      Barton's determined commitment to individual freedoms earned him early notice from National Journal as one of the magazine's "Republicans to Watch." In his first legislative victory as a committee chairman, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation to limit indecency on the public airwaves. As a founding co-chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus with Congressman Ed Markey, D-Mass., he is an innovative protector of Americans' financial and medical privacy, with a particular concern for issues ranging from identify theft to the hazards to privacy and child safety that exist on the Internet.

      As founding co-chairman of Asthma Awareness Day on Capitol Hill, Barton works to achieve common-sense clean air policy at the local, state and national level. His success in reauthorizing the National Institutes of Health was a milestone in the fight to advance research into diabetes, cancer, HIV, mental health and other diseases, and his work in winning passage for landmark reforms at the Food and Drug Administration dramatically improved the way that the safety of medical devices is ensured.

      Joe Linus Barton was born on September 15, 1949 in Waco, Texas, where he lived on a Central Texas farm and grew into a hard-throwing baseball pitcher. He also excelled at academics, and earned a competitive, four-year Gifford-Hill Opportunity Award scholarship to Texas A&M University. Texas A&M named him the outstanding industrial engineering student for the Class of 1972. He then earned his Master of Science degree in Industrial Administration from Purdue University and, in 1981, was selected for the prestigious White House Fellows Program. He was assigned to the Department of Energy and served as aide to then-Energy Secretary James B. Edwards. Barton returned to Texas in 1982 as a natural gas decontrol consultant for Atlantic Richfield Oil and Gas Co. Successful in his first bid for Congress, he became only the second Republican to serve the Sixth District in its century-long history.

      The congressman and his wife, Terri, have homes in Ennis and Arlington, Texas. He has four children, two stepchildren and four grandchildren.

An open letter to the gathering wave of new House Republicans:

In a turbulent campaign year, you are winning because you were honest with voters and you cut through the smog of media skepticism and Democrats’ acrimony. Those who win the trust of voters on election night will do so because you are the people in touch with America. I hope and expect that you will bring to Washington a perspective that’s been absent for too long, plus the determination to make it stick.

When you get here, there’s a fictional character that William Faulkner invented whom you’ll meet every day. He said, “Only thank God men have done learned how to forget quick what they ain’t brave enough to cure.” Lots of people here think like that.

They’re the ones who walk the yellow lines in the middle of the highway and will tell you it’s okay to accept 8 percent unemployment because it beats 10 percent.  They will urge you to embrace tax hikes that are only moderately destructive. They will advise government spending that only grows twice as fast, and explain patiently that a deficit that swells by a trillion dollars is okay because, after all, it could be worse. It’s insidious, and I hope you will reject the philosophy that tells us to forget what we “ain’t brave enough to cure.” Now is no time to compromise with failure.

I’m sure the people of your district aren’t terribly different from those in mine. They tell me in the plainest possible way that they want less government and more freedom.  What that means to me is lower taxes, a lot less waste, greater energy security, and enhanced worldwide competitiveness. By electing you, I think the people will be taking a big step at a crucial moment toward remaking their Congress into something that finally represents them and their neighbors.

We’ve had some modest success against very long odds in Democrat-dominated Congresses over the last four years. Radical cap-and-trade legislation was shelved because the more people heard about it, the more they disliked it. The objections to the vast new entitlements and health care mandates weren’t enough to stop ObamaCare altogether, but they did chase universal health care off the table. The fight has been uphill all the way, so I’m especially glad that because of the people of your districts, the cavalry is riding to the rescue.

With your help, the House will launch the new year by making it clear that we’re here to serve the people who work and pay taxes, and who expect us to deliver on our commitment to their agenda. Government runs on the money taken from their pockets, and I hope you agree with me that issue No. 1 should be sticking with the tax cuts so that working families are able to decide how to spend more of their own money.

Ending the president’s spending extravaganza in short order is a close second, and a fine place to start is through real entitlement reform. Entitlement spending amounts to $1.4 trillion and is now more than half the federal budget. Thanks to ObamaCare, entitlement programs are growing like crazy. They were costing each American taxpayer $7,698 a year even before the president decided that many more people needed a much larger share of other people’s earnings. I think the wage earners need some help, too, and that Washington can get along on a smaller share of their money. Those who believe in the sunrise also believe in the sunset, and it seems clear that the sun must set on some government spending.