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Republican lawmakers compete to lead key House committees
The battle lines are drawn along some ideological and regional lines. No chairmanship is trickier than that of Appropriations, where there doesn't appear to be a good option for conservative activists who consider the panel an enabler of government spending.
Earmarks at issue
The anti-earmark crowd wants to bump off Lewis, 76, who was once under an FBI probe for his proclivity in backing pet projects. (The case was dropped.) But next in line is Rep. Harold Rogers (Ky.), 72, who has an earmark record every bit as lengthy as Lewis's.
Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.), 55, in committee seniority and an 18-year veteran, presented himself as a fresh face. Kingston enjoys the support of the Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial board, but he, too, has a long history of backing earmarks.
"This isn't the time for business as usual," said Kingston, a member of the committee for 16 years. His PowerPoint presentation, "Changing the Culture," included a spending-cap proposal along the lines of the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings bill, which set deficit-reduction targets.
All of the Appropriations candidates have pledged to abide by the earmark ban that Boehner and Cantor have pushed, and they have said they will add anti-earmark Republicans to the committee despite years of fighting those same lawmakers.
On the Energy and Commerce Committee, Barton's biggest hurdles to staying in power may be a longtime rivalry with Boehner and a general displeasure with him from other GOP leaders. They bristle at his communications style, which was epitomized over the summer during a hearing about the Gulf Coast oil spill in which Barton apologized to BP.
Passing over Barton would make Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), a moderate on social issues and a staunch conservative on energy policy, the front-runner, but he faces conservative challengers in Reps. John Shimkus (Ill.) and Cliff Stearns (Fla.).
The final domino is the Intelligence Committee, where regional dynamics could come into play. If Upton wins the energy gavel, the Texas delegation may be upset over Barton's rejection and could push for one of their own, Rep. William M. "Mac" Thornberry, to head Intelligence. But Mike Rogers (Mich.) is also angling for the spot, and he's got a much closer relationship with Boehner than Thornberry does, setting up another possible battle between the state delegations.