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It’s not just the Energy and Commerce Committee that’s seen such reversals. The lawmakers vying for chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee have in the past voted for trillions of dollars of spending and have been staunch defenders of earmarking, but are now vowing to oversee a GOP-led earmark ban and deep spending cuts.

Mr. McKenna said making an about-face can help — especially in the case of Mr. Upton, whose willingness to revisit his own legislation could help win over colleagues.

“He’s shown a remarkable willingness to listen to the voters, which is very rare, and he’s shown a remarkable willingness to listen to his colleagues, which is almost as rare,” said Mr. McKenna, who runs MWR Strategies. “This thing about light bulbs is a good example of what’s going to make him a good chairman.”

Mrs. Harman, the Democrat with whom Mr. Upton teamed up to push the light bulb rules, said the repeal efforts will fail.

“The 2007 law was supported by industry, environmental groups and a strong bipartisan majority in Congress,” she said. “I see no chance that the Senate or White House will permit it to be repealed.”

Indeed, the proposal she and Mr. Upton spearheaded was adopted in committee on a voice vote in 2007.

Federal officials say 272 million CFLs were sold in the U.S. in 2009, and they argue that the environmental and safety fears have been blown out of proportion. An Environmental Protection Agency document on CFLs said that if every U.S. home would change out just one old bulb with a CFL, it could in one year save enough energy to light 3 million homes, or prevent greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to 800,000 cars.

For repeal to succeed, legislation would have to pass the House and the Senate, which Democrats will continue to control next year, and then be signed by President Obama.

Regardless of the prospects, the issue has captured the changing sentiments on Capitol Hill, where “repeal” is a common word among the GOP.

Mr. Upton, for example, has promised to repeal this year’s massive health insurance overhaul as well as the host of rules the Obama administration has released.

“The countless regulations that are smothering job growth will be in the cross hairs,” he said.

The House Republican Steering Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on committee chairmanships, and the entire House Republican Conference will ratify the recommendations later.