How Mike Lee could reshape the Senate Energy Committee

By Emma Dumain | 03/06/2024 06:45 AM EST

The Utah senator would likely become the panel’s top Republican if Sen. John Barrasso wins his bid next year for Senate GOP whip.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) speaks with reporters at the U.S. Capitol Feb. 5, 2024.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah could become the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's top Republican next year. Francis Chung/POLITICO

Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso signaled Tuesday he will run for Senate GOP whip next year, paving the way for Sen. Mike Lee — one of the chamber’s greatest public lands antagonists — to ascend to the party’s top slot on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Lee (R-Utah) told E&E News he was “absolutely” interested in replacing Barrasso as the panel’s top Republican. But his promotion could complicate the committee’s ability to carry out the core functions of its mandate: to move legislation that would codify land designations, expansions and protections.

“I think it should be scary for Americans, that we should have somebody chairing the committee, or serving as ranking member, who is fundamentally opposed to the idea of the federal government managing lands in the American West,” Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said of Lee.


Barrasso is currently running unopposed for the No. 2 position in his party’s leadership as the current whip, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), makes a play to succeed Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as the Republican leader. Assuming Barrasso clinches the job, he’ll have to give up his position as the senior Republican on Energy and Natural Resources in 2025, per Senate Republican Conference rules.