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Barton Solicits Support in Bid to Chair Energy Panel

Rep. Joe Barton continued his campaign on Tuesday to be Energy and Commerce chairman in the next Congress, this time by appealing to GOP committee members to sign a letter supporting his bid.

The letter, drafted by the Texas Republican’s staff and obtained by Roll Call, points to his accomplishments as ranking member of the powerful panel and recommends him to become chairman.

Under House Republican Conference rules, Barton would need a waiver from the Republican Steering Committee to become chairman, because he has served three consecutive terms as the top Republican.

“You know Joe. He has provided unyielding conservative leadership during our protracted partisan battles over cap-and-trade and health care reform,” the letter says.

The letter chronicles Barton’s fight to bring down the health care overhaul “despite his leadership and despite being outnumbered and outgunned.”

“We devised 350 amendments and actually offered and debated 54 of them,” the letter says. “They won, but it was stubborn, intelligent Joe Barton who made certain that they’d won a Pyrrhic victory.”

Barton spokeswoman Lisa Miller declined to name which members of the panel have agreed to sign the letter. “Several [members] have told the Congressman they were with him and no one has said they weren’t, but he hasn’t called everyone yet, so we don’t know the final total,” Miller said.

Barton also held a conference call with members of the Texas delegation Monday to ask them to support fellow Lone Star Staters who are seeking leadership positions. He did not explicitly ask them to reach out to other Members on his behalf, according to several sources. It is not clear how many members of the large Texas GOP delegation support Barton’s bid.

This latest push comes just days after Barton sent an official committee e-mail to K Streeters with news articles bolstering his bid for the chairman slot.

While Barton has been vocal about his intentions, he is hardly alone in wanting to be chairman. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has also thrown his hat in the ring, as has Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) is also rumored to be mulling a bid for the chairmanship.

Upton, as the third-ranking Republican, behind Barton and Rep. Ralph Hall (Texas), holds the highest seniority of the three would-be replacements if Barton does not obtain a waiver.

Upton and Shimkus emerged as favorites for the position after a public backlash against Barton over his infamous apology to BP during hearings this summer about the Gulf Coast oil spill. Both are popular within the conference and have donated time and money to help Republicans regain the majority through the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Upton, who co-hosted a NRCC fundraising dinner in March, has raised $1 million, according to the latest records from the campaign. He ranks eighth in the conference in overall fundraising.

Shimkus ranks 10th in overall fundraising, according to NRCC records.

Shimkus sent a letter Tuesday to Republican colleagues outlining his plans for the committee, which include following regular order, allowing amendments and informing Members of how committee work is relevant to their districts. Shimkus noted that he is only running for the top slot if Barton does not obtain a waiver.

“I believe that I have the credentials within the Committee to bring fairness, without protests from the other side of the aisle, in its operation; to hold full oversight hearings on Administration actions and implementation of laws; and to use our jurisdiction to help create jobs, not more government regulation,” Shimkus said in a statement.

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