It looks as though Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will take over the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee when the new Congress is seated early next year.
That is the committee with primary jurisdiction over the FCC and communications issues.
According to a Hill source, later confirmed by Walden's himself, the steering committee Thursday voted to recommend him as new chairman to the Republican caucus, which will vote for that new chairman Friday (Dec. 2), but the recommendation means Walden will almost certainly get the post.
He was running against Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) and John Shimkus (R-Pa.). Both had seniority, but Walden, chairman of the Communications subcommittee, is very popular among his colleagues, particularly after heading up a congressional campaign funding effort that helped his party hold onto its majority, and most of its seats, in the last election despite predictions it could lose up to a couple of dozen.
Current E&C chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) was term-limited, so must give up that post. Walden was also term-limited in his subcommittee chairmanship. Had he not gotten the E&C post, there was some speculation he might be in the conversation for FCC chair or commissioner. He is a former broadcaster popular in those circles as well.
“I am deeply honored to earn the support of my colleagues to chair this incredibly important committee," Walden said following the vote. "Americans are looking for big improvements out of Washington, and that’s just what we’re going to give them as we work with the Trump Administration, the Senate, and the governors, to move forward on the Better Way agenda. Our work will focus on what’s best for consumers, on creating better paying jobs and providing patient-centered health care.
“I commend my friends and fellow committee members, former Chairman Joe Barton and Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus, for stepping forward to compete for this chairmanship. They are talented legislators and leaders to whom I will turn for help as we embark on our legislative work. I also want to thank outgoing Chairman Fred Upton who proved again yesterday with overwhelming passage of the 21st Century Cures legislation, that our committee does great, bipartisan work for the American people."
Walden said subcommittee chairmanships, including his own replacement, won't be made until after the steering committee sets new committee rosters in early January.
“Like the Chicago Cubs, we are a team full of MVPs and Energy and Commerce will be in great hands with my friend Greg Walden holding the gavel," said Upton. "Greg’s leadership with #SubCommTech demonstrated his hard work and proven record of success,” said Upton. “We’ve got a lot to do in the remaining days of this Congress, including getting 21st Century Cures across the finish line. As we look toward a new year, a new Congress, and a new administration, the Energy and Commerce Committee will be leading the way on health reform, keeping energy affordable, and putting folks back to work. House Republicans have a better way, and I look forward to Greg Walden’s leadership in the 115th Congress.”
“I congratulate Congressman Walden on his selection as the new Chairman of this great Committee," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the commmittee. "[I] look forward to working with him to address the pressing needs of the American people. The Energy and Commerce Committee has a long and proud history of bipartisanship, and I’m confident that we can continue that tradition in the coming years.”
“As a subcommittee chairman responsible for much of the House’s legislative tech portfolio, Greg Walden and I have worked well together to conduct oversight and pass important legislation benefiting the public," said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.). "I congratulate him on receiving the full committee gavel and look forward to continuing our efforts to enact legislation benefiting all Americans."
Their respective committees share oversight over the FCC and communications issues.
“We wish to congratulate incoming Chairman Greg Walden on his election as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee," said Chip Pickering, CEO of INCOMPAS and himself a former vice chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee. "He has demonstrated himself to be an open, fair and substantive public servant, dedicated to rural communities, innovation and broadband growth. We look forward to working with him and the entire Committee on ways to improve and expand technology networks of the future."
"We congratulate Rep. Walden on his selection as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the upcoming Congress," said Michael Powell, president of NCTA: The Internet & Television Association. "Chairman Walden is a thoughtful policymaker with extensive experience and deep knowledge of issues surrounding telecommunications, technology and other important sectors of the U.S. economy. We look forward to working Chairman Walden and the full Committee on a productive agenda that encourages private capital investment, supports ongoing innovation and promotes the growth of our national economy.”
"NAB congratulates Greg Walden on his selection to be the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Walden's career has been marked by accomplishment and integrity," said National Association of Broadcasters President Sen. Gordon Smith. "We look forward to working with him and other members of Congress and the Committee in the new Congress."
“TIA has worked with Rep. Walden for several years in his role as chairman of the Communications Subcommittee, and we know he understands the enormous economic and employment contributions of U.S. telecom and tech companies," said Telecommunications Industry Association interim CEO David Heard. "He’s been a leader on key ICT issues, including his instrumental role in the passage of the landmark Spectrum Act in 2012. We’re confident that, as chairman of the full committee, he will continue to seek pro-growth policies that encourage private sector investment, support our nation’s spectrum needs, and help maintain America’s innovation leadership.
“We look forward to working with Chairman Walden and all members of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Their work in the years ahead will play a critical role in advancing life-changing consumer technologies and in shaping the future of the U.S. economy and our role in the world.”
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.