The Republican Steering Committee Tuesday selected Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) as chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, bringing to a close the bitter power struggle for the top seat. The entire House Republican Conference seconded the vote on Wednesday.

Upton, who is chairman of the Committee’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee, edged out Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX), John Shimkus (R-IL) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) to head up the panel, which oversees major energy, environmental and commerce issues.

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), the presumptive chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, is seeking to strip the House energy panel of its authority over energy issues and combine it into one committee — the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee (see Daily GPI, Nov. 23).

Upton pledged to stand “should to shoulder” with incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the entire Republican Conference to “repeal Obamacare, fight rampant job-killing regulations, cut spending and help put folks back to work.” He did not address any specific energy issues.

However, earlier in the week Upton called on the Obama administration to support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He also has vowed to “exert tireless oversight of the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and stop implementation of a carbon regulation system.”

Even before the Republican Steering Committee announced the results of its vote, many believed that Upton was the odds-on favorite to win. The entire House Republican Conference Wednesday ratified the steering committee’s selection of Upton.

There was some speculation that Barton might appeal the committee’s selection to the House Republican Conference. “That would be an unpopular decision. The Steering Committee likes to see its decisions respected,” said Martin Edwards, vice president of legislative affairs for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.

But the speculation was laid to rest when Barton immediately congratulated Upton on being tapped as chairman. “He has an enormous job ahead, and I’m going to do everything I know how to make his chairmanship the kind of success that the American people want and expect,” Barton said.

Barton has been a member of the House energy panel for 24 of his 26 years in the House. He was picked as chairman in 2004 and then served two terms as ranking member. He had his eyes on the chairman post again but House rules — which precluded someone from holding three consecutive terms as chairman or ranking member — stood in his way (see Daily GPI, Nov. 12).

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