Barton Collects E&C Backers

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A majority of returning House Energy & Commerce Committee Republican members, including John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who were potential candidates themselves for the chairmanship of the powerful committee, are supporting Joe Barton (R-Tex.) for the job.

That is according to a "dear colleague" letter being circulated by those legislators, according to Barton's office, which supplied a copy of the missive, which seeks those colleagues' support for Barton's chairmanship.

E&C has oversight of the FCC, and Barton has pledged close scrutiny of the FCC's moves.

Others signing on to the letter of support were Ralph Hall (R-Tex.), Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Michael Burgess (R-Tex.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Steve Scalise, (R-La.). In the letter, they said Barton "has provided unyielding conservative leadership," a telling phrase given that Barton has been positioning his chief rival for the post, Fred Upton (R-Mich.) as a moderate. Upton, in turn, has been countering with an emphasis on his fiscal conservatism, his effort to crack down on broadcast indecency (he co-authored the bill raising the fines), opposition to the Obama healthcare bill, opposition to federally funded abortion, and his ties to conservative icon Ronald Reagan. In fact, in his announcement for the post, Upton described himself first as a "former budget aide to President Ronald Reagan."

"Our friend and committee leader has been a principled conservative who you can count on in committee and on the floor," the letter said of Barton. "He served one term as our chairman, and we believe it is essential to the new mission of all Republicans in the House that he have the opportunity to serve a second term."

Not long after Barton's office e-mailed a copy of the "dear colleague" letter, Upton's office sent out an op-ed from The Hill newspaper by Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) supporting Upton's chairmanship and headlined: "Upton is Committed To Conservative Principles."

Barton is generally thought to need a waiver of Republican term limits of six years on chairmanships and ranking member posts.

He was chairman for one term and ranking member for two. But Barton has argued that a number of Republican ranking members were permitted to assume chairmanships in 1994 that pushed them past the term limits adopted in 1993.

Upton is the former chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee and has also pledged muscular oversight over federal agencies.

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