Three former House chairmen have called on the Republic transition team to name Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) to a second term as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, despite a long-standing rule that prohibits a lawmaker from serving more than three consecutive terms as a chairman and ranking member.

Barton has been chairman of the powerful House energy panel for one term and then served two terms as the ranking member. Although he has used up his allotted three terms as chairman and ranking member, he wants another shot at the chairmanship.

“We became committee chairmen under similar circumstances following the 1994 election and we were part of the wave of change that also sought to part from the old ways when a chairmanship meant a job for life,” wrote Bill Archer (R-TX), former chairman on the House Ways and Means Committee; Bud Shuster (R-PA) , former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; and Don Young (R-AK), former House Natural Resources Committee, in a letter Wednesday to the Republican transition team.

“Now our friend, Joe Barton, finds himself in a similar position. Joe has served one full two-year term in the chair of the Energy and 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 rule was ever intended to prevent it,” the former House chairmen said.

At issue is a rule, which was adopted in 1993, that provides that “no individual shall serve more than three consecutive terms as chairman or ranking member of a standing, select, joint or ad hoc committee or subcommittee beginning with the 104th Congress.” Senate Republican originally adopted the same language, but have since clarified it to mean that no one can serve more than six years as chairman and six years as ranking member.

Barton “is seeking a waiver of the rules in order to serve his second term as chairman of the committee, but no mechanism for granting (or denying) such a waiver exists, and none is required unless the Steering Committee determines that being a ranking member is the same as being chairman, even though we all understand the differences are clearly distinguishable and critical,” the trio said.

“Nothing in the rule bars the Republican leader and/or the Steering Committee from simply clarifying the reality that services as ranking member simply does not equal service as chairman…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 still went on to serve three terms as chairmen without need of any waiver.”

Other Republicans vying for the chairmanship are said to be Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan and John Shimkus of Illinois.

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