Rep. Joe Barton envisions cutting back the number of members on the Energy and Commerce Committee if he takes its gavel and holding monthly regulatory oversight hearings of U.S. EPA, according to an outline of his proposed plans given to GOP leadership last night.
The Texas Republican and current ranking member of the committee wants to step into the chairman's seat in the next Congress, but he is part of a tight, four-man race for the job. Barton and Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan, John Shimkus of Illinois and Cliff Stearns of Florida last week presented their pitches for the post to the 34-member GOP Steering Committee, which is expected to make a decision today.
But Barton last night provided the committee with a 140-page document answering 20 questions posed by the Steering Committee, including a rough draft of his proposed committee schedule for the first four months of 2011.
Barton promises to repeal the health care law that passed this year and to cut spending, both issues he has discussed publicly before. But the document, obtained by E&E Daily, outlines those plans and his energy and environmental agendas in much greater detail.
"EPA's economy-strangling regulations are our foremost concern," Barton says in the questionnaire. "EPA deserves our special attention, particularly on the consequences of its endangerment finding on global warming, but also on the coming regulatory wave involving everything from coal ash to water towers."
If chosen as chairman, Barton said he would summon EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Capitol Hill next month to discuss the agency's greenhouse gas regulations that are scheduled to go into effect then. The committee also would focus on EPA's air quality standards for ozone during January, Barton says.
"The Committee will make sure that the EPA follows the law and doesn't kill jobs," he wrote.
February would bring another EPA regulatory oversight hearing, this time on the agency's controversial regulations for industrial boilers. February would also see the committee seeking legislative ways to promote new nuclear reactors and to investigate the closure of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository.
In March, the committee would focus energy and environmental efforts on an examination of EPA's new rule for ethanol as a transportation fuel. And April would provide time to discuss the Energy Department's slow pace of issuing stimulus grants.
Clean coal, renewables, a smart electric grid and distributed electricity generation would all receive ample discussion under his leadership, Barton says in his questionnaire.
Barton's answers largely show he is willing to accept changes proposed by GOP leadership about the congressional schedule and committee sizes. Specifically, he envisions an Energy and Commerce Committee with 51 or 53 members, down from the current 59.
"Factoring in our 19 returning Committee members, we anticipate adding 12 or 13 new members to the Committee" on the Republican side, he wrote. Such a plan would force Democrats to cut 10 names from its roster of returning members if the committee ratio were based on the full House ratio, plus one.
Barton also said he favors Republican leaders' proposed plans to coordinate floor and committee activities and to lengthen work weeks in Washington.
Barton has run up against GOP term limits in his bid for the gavel. He has held the post once before -- from 2005 to 2006 -- but he has also held the ranking member position for two terms, and GOP rules prohibit members from serving more than three consecutive terms atop a committee. Barton also made waves this summer when he apologized to BP PLC's then-CEO Tony Hayward for suffering a White House "shakedown."
Observers peg Upton as the favorite for the post, but the race is still anyone's game, as several members involved in the decision process have said the Steering Committee will make its decision based on merit, not whether a candidate needs a waiver of the term-limit rule.
The committee is expected to make its decision today, but the full GOP conference will still need to ratify its choice.
Copies of the other candidates' questionnaires could not be obtained as of publication time.
Click here to read Barton's questionnaire.