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Barton Gets Backup for E&C Chairman's Pitch

Ranking member Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) continued his aggressive pursuit of the House Energy & Commerce Committee chairmanship Thursday. The powerful committee has primary oversight over the FCC.

Barton has said he does not need a waiver of term limits to ascend to the post. Thursday he circulated a letter from three former Republican committee chairmen who agreed with him and used their own experience as evidence.

To get the chairmanship, Barton would appear to have to get a waiver of the six-year term limit for a leadership position--chair or ranking member. He served as chair of the committee for one two-year term, then as ranking member the past two terms under Democratic control (since 2006).

But Barton pointed out that the same rule--adopted in 1993--was in place in 1994, when it was not applied to five ranking members who assumed chairmanships. "We didn't apply the ranking membership time toward their chairman time, I interpret the rule to be that I served one full term as chairman, so I am eligible, not entitled, but eligible to be chairman for two more terms," he said, adding that he would add the Republican Conference steering committee to clarify the rule.

The letter was signed by three of those chairmen, Bill Archer, Bud Shuster and Bill Young, and sent to the GOP Majority Transition Team. "Chairmen in the 104th Congress became chairmen notwithstanding previous service as ranking members," they wrote. "As a matter of fact, we all served as ranking members prior to the adoption of this rule (two of us doing so for three terms), and we all still went on to serve three terms as chairmen without need of any waiver."

The three put in a plug for Barton, who faces several contender for the post, including Fred Upton (R-Mich.), former chair of the Communications Subcommittee, Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), current ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee, and John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

"Joe has served one full two-year term in the chair at the Energy & Commerce Committee and is seeking a second term. He was denied the chairmanship when Democrats won the majority in 2006 and held on to it for four years. We believe he deserves that second term now, and that neither the spirit nor the letter of the rules was ever intended to prevent it," they said.

Barton has been positioning Upton, his chief rival, as a moderate, while saying he himself has been a "consistent conservative."