Some top posts on panels up for grabs

GOP leaders lobby for spots

While House Republicans are jockeying behind the scenes for coveted committee chairmanships should Democrats be ousted from leadership after the midterm elections, many political insiders don’t expect a drastic reshuffling of leadership within the GOP.

“I think the leadership stays pretty set,” said Thomas M. Davis III, a former House member from Virginia and president of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership. “You’re not going to fire a team that’s just taken you to the promised land.”

Rep. Joe L. Barton, the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Jerry Lewis, the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, have party-imposed term limits on their leadership posts. But both are expected to petition the House Steering Committee to waive the rule and allow them to serve as chairmen if Republicans win the 39 additional seats necessary to take control of the House.

Neither has a lock on their leadership status.

Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, is the leader of the House Steering Committee. He has had a tense relationship with Mr. Barton and may be reluctant to grant the Texan another leadership term.

That tension increased during the summer when Mr. Barton accused the Obama administration of a “shakedown” after it secured a $20 billion compensation fund from BP PLC for victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Mr. Barton’s choice of words was a minor embarrassment for Mr. Boehner, who said he disagreed with him.

Mr. Barton later apologized for using the word “shakedown,” and has said he doesn’t think the House Steering Committee would use his comments against him.

“Mr. Barton is going to run for the chairmanship,” said Barton spokeswoman Lisa Miller. She quickly added that the lawmaker “is working hard to make sure that Republicans pick the chairman next year and that Democrats have a chance to fill the ranking members’ seats with their very best survivors.”

Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan and John Shimkus of Illinois have said they will seek the Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship if it’s available. Both have been longtime party loyalists, though Mr. Upton is considered the favorite because of his seniority over Mr. Shimkus.

“With unparalleled seniority, experience and demonstrated leadership, it is Fred’s goal to be the next chairman should Mr. Barton not receive a waiver,” said Upton spokesman Sean Bonyun. “But the utmost priority right now is recapturing the House.”

An Upton-led committee would return control of the panel to a lawmaker from Michigan. Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, was ousted as chairman by his party two years ago in favor of the more liberal Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California. Mr. Upton likely would fight proposals to strengthen regulation of carbon emissions and the “cap and trade” bill in the hope of protecting the state’s vital automotive industry.

A Shimkus spokesman said the lawmaker will petition to become either chairman or — if the Republicans remain in the minority — ranking member in the absence of Mr. Barton.

The spokesman added that Mr. Shimkus decided to seek the post regardless of Mr. Upton’s plans.

“It’s somewhat unilateral,” said Steven Tomaszewski. “He’s definitely presuming that … Mr. Upton is seeking it as well.”

Support for earmarks could hurt Mr. Lewis’ chances for a chairmanship. Mr. Boehner has made eradicating pet spending projects a priority.

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