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Barton Pledges Strong Oversight of FCC

Republicans win back the House, as many are predicting, and if Energy &
Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) gets to reclaim the
chairmanship, expect vigorous oversight of federal agencies,
including the FCC.

signaled just that in an op-ed in the Washington Times Thursday. He
is among a number of Republicans known to be interested in the job,
including former Communications Subcommittee Chair
Fred Upton (R-Mich.), a big fund-raiser for the party, and Cliff
Stearns, current ranking member on the Communications subcommittee.

That means
look for hearings and information requests on a host of issues. One of
the ten things he has pledged to "uncover" in the first six months of
next year is "why the Obama administration's
Federal Communications Commission thinks the Internet needs federal
government regulation for the first time." He called getting the answer
one of the ways to "start cleaning up the mess." He is also eyeing
hearings on healthcare and environmental policy.

Barton and
other Republicans refused to sign off on a compromise network neutrality
bill being encouraged by the FCC and pushed by Energy & Commerce
Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Separately,
the FCC has proposed expanding and codifying its open Internet
principles once it has more clearly established its Internet oversight

oversight function is not a license to bully political opponents,"
Barton wrote, but he also said that "Our first job will be to find out
what's gone wrong. That's why the return of vigorous
congressional oversight is going to be a top priority for me and the
committee next year."

He did not overtly call it payback, but he did point out that at the end of
the Bush administration, the Democrats engaged in "furious oversight"
that he said became less enthusiastic when a Democratic
president took over.

A Republican
committee staffer speaking on background said to also expect similar
vigorous oversight of issues including the broandband stimulus spending
and build-outs under National Telecommunications
& Information Administration and Agriculture Department programs,
as well as on Universal Service Reform and privacy.