Rep. Joe Barton, Texas Republican, is making his final pitch to head a crucial congressional energy panel as the man truest to conservative principles, offering colleagues a detailed battle plan to take on the Obama administration on the president’s health care law and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pending global warming regulations.
Barton’s plan comes in the form of answers to a detailed questionnaire sent from the GOP Steering Committee, a panel mostly filled by loyalists to House Speaker-elect John Boehner of Ohio. The Steering Committee will vote Tuesday on the issue.
At issues is chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The panel is critical because it will form the front lines in the Republicans’ fight against Obamacare in the next Congress.
Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, a more moderate candidate for the seat who is seen as the frontrunner, reiterated his call Monday to open drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a polarizing environmental debate that may assuage concerns over his opposition to drilling in other places.
Upton has been bolstered by the support of numerous beltway conservatives, including Fred Barnes, the executive editor of the Weekly Standard, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the chief economic advisor for Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.
But some Tea Party activist groups have seized on the race as a key indicator of the GOP’s direction after its huge victories on Election Day, which were fueled in part by conservative voters who say they are as unhappy with Republicans as they are with the Democrats they booted from office.
Calling Upton a “Big Government RINO,” an acronym which stands for “Republican in name only,” Matt Kibbe, the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, urged fellow activists to help torpedo Upton’s candidacy.
“Do not let the new Republican class start ignoring the Tea Party from Day One by choosing Big Government leaders to set their agenda for the next two years,” Kibbe said in an e-mail to supporters in reference to Upton’s bid.
Barton’s final pitch to the Steering Committee that will decide who sits atop the Energy Committee offers a lengthy and detailed battle plan to take on the Obama administration on the president’s health care law and the EPA’s global warming regulations.
The plan includes Barton’s month-by-month strategy for the first quarter of 2011.
Barton says in the first week of his chairmanship he will invite Obama’s top health care official, Kathleen Sebelius, and the controversial head of a key health care sub-agency, Dr. Donald Berwick, to testify before the committee.
Following those invitations, a slew of other health care officials will be asked to come before the committee, including Richard Foster, who concluded in an analysis made available shortly after the health care law’s passage that the law will not rein in rising health care costs.