Walden to head powerful Energy and Commerce Committee

Source: BY DEVIN HENRY AND SCOTT WONG. The Hill • Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel. Current chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is stepping down from the position due to term limits.

“Look, this was tough,” Walden said after the vote. “John Shimkus and Joe Barton are both good friends and they are excellent legislators. They both have roles where they will continue to be leaders.”

When asked about his top legislative priorities, Walden declined to name any specifics as he walked into his basement office, where he was greeted by robust applause and cheers from inside.

Support for Walden’s elevation to chairman surged after two successful terms as head of the House GOP’s campaign arm, a tenure that endeared him to both leadership and the House GOP Steering Committee members who elected him on Thursday.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who aggressively campaigned around the country with Walden this year, spoke in favor of the Oregon lawmaker during Thursday’s Steering meeting, according to sources in the closed-door gathering.

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who serves on both the Steering and Energy committees, said Walden’s success as campaign chairman certainly was “a major contributing factor” to his victory.

“It was a very, very, very difficult vote for every single member because both guys are great. Both guys are super qualified. Both John and Greg have earned the right to be chairman of the committee,” Cramer said after the Steering vote.

“The problem is there can only be one chairman.”

A nine-term lawmaker, Walden has experience on both the Energy panel and within the industries over which it has jurisdiction.

He previously owned radio stations in Oregon and has chaired the panel’s technology and telecom subcommittee. He has also worked on healthcare issues in rural Oregon.

Technology and healthcare are among the biggest industries under the purview of the Energy panel. The committee also oversees the American energy sector and issues as diverse as consumer protection and encryption.

During his push for the chairmanship, Shimkus emphasized his experience on all six of the committee’s subpanels. He outranks Walden on the committee and, in a letter to members last month, noted his work passing a major chemical safety overhaul bill this year.

He vowed, as chairman, to eat away at Obama administration rulemaking, including “building the case” against the legal principle that agencies get to interpret laws as they see fit.

But Republicans watching the contest said Walden’s work at the National Republican Congressional Committee — where he helped secure the GOP’s largest majority since the Great Depression, raised millions of dollars for candidates and limited Republican losses in last month’s elections — helped him nail down the chairmanship.

Republicans on Thursday also selected Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) to head the Veterans Affairs Committee. He secured the position after a three-way contest against Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Doug Lamborn (D-Colo.).

Roe, a former captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. and a seven-year veteran of the Veterans Affairs Committee, replaces outgoing chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who is retiring at the end of this Congress.

Sarah Ferris contributed. Updated at 6:20 p.m.