Politics

As last pitch for energy panel, Barton offers detailed battle plan

Jonathan Strong Contributor

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.

Also on the chopping block in Barton’s would-be first month is Lisa Jackson, the head of EPA, who will be asked to explain the global warming regulations her agency is racing to finalize under the Clean Air Act.

“The first step will be to hold hearings on the EPA’s endangerment finding,” which began the legal process for promulgating the regulations, “and the cost of these regulations,” Barton’s questionnaire says.

Barton plans to continue in his vigorous oversight through February into March, which holds the first anniversary of Obamacare.

“No committee will spend more time observing the first anniversary of Obamacare,” Barton vows, “not only will we invite back both Kathleen Sebelius and Dr. Berwick to testify about the law, but we are going to do so at a town hall.”

The Steering Committee asks in its questionnaire how would-be chairmen are prepared to avoid the pitfalls of their oversight work appearing as “purely partisan exercises.”

Barton says that the committee under his tenure has already implemented “high oversight standards.”

“We have fact-based, data-drive oversight, in which we gather information, review documents (sometimes in the tens of thousands), before we go public,” Barton says.

One question from the Steering Committee is revealing of the typical congressional work week, which many average American workers might find alien in its brevity.

“We are asking all chairmen to better utilize first and last days each week,” the questionnaire says, referring, at least on most weeks, to Monday and Friday, respectively.

“Are you available to return to Washington earlier on the first day of session and can you commit to holding preliminary meetings with your staff, subcommittee chairmen, and/or members? (This would enable you to begin your scheduled business by 9 am or 10 am depending on Conference on the second day in session),” the questionnaire asks.

In other words, will you show up to work on Monday so that committee business can begin by 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. on Tuesday?

“Yes,” says Barton, “I am committed to lead a schedule that will most benefit the work of the entire Conference. I am ready to work Monday through Friday, three weeks per month. The fourth week of the month will usually be reserved as a district work period, or regional field hearings could be scheduled during that week.”

Upton did not provide a copy of his questionnaire answers to The Daily Caller.

In an undated memo to “interested parties,” Upton vows aggressive action on a number of the same areas as Barton, though with far fewer details.

The memo includes, as the first in a list of pledges that Upton will push for, passage of legislation that would “ensure that no taxpayer dollars ever go to pay for abortion.” Upton has encountered fire from the right for his relatively moderate record on abortion.

Upton also promises to “reveal, repeal and replace Obamacare.”