Rep. Joe Barton falls short in bid to lead powerful Energy and Commerce Committee

Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis came up short in his bid to chair the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee
Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis came up short in his bid to chair the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee Star-Telegram

Joe Barton is the senior member of the Texas Republican delegation in Congress, but he failed to win back a powerful committee chair post he held during the George W. Bush administration.

Barton was seeking to lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a group of lawmakers who oversee a broad array of legislation related to energy, communications, the environment, trade and health.

Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon beat Barton and Illinois Rep. John Shimkus for the post.

“I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to my friend, Greg Walden of Oregon, on becoming the next Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Barton said in a statement. “He is a good man and will be an outstanding Chairman. I wish him well and will do everything in my power to help make his Chairmanship a success for the American people.”

Walden was the favorite for the position after running the Republicans’ largely successful national fundraising operation for the last two election cycles.

Barton, who has served in Congress since 1985, made his pitch to fellow Republicans in recent weeks, calling and meeting with dozens of members and outlining his conservative vision for the committee, which he led from 2004 to 2007.

But Barton’s leadership PAC, a vehicle for raising money and currying favor with fellow members, was virtually dormant during the 2016 elections.

Barton’s Texas Freedom Fund donated just $6,000 to House Republicans during the 2016 cycle while Walden’s leadership PAC doled out nearly $500,000 to House Republicans seeking reelection, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Republican Steering Committee, led by Speaker Paul Ryan and other high-ranking Republicans, recommended Walden for the post. Their recommendation is expected to be rubber-stamped by all House Republicans on Friday.

Walden will leave his post at the National Republican Campaign Committee and will be replaced by Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers. Stivers defeated Austin Rep. Roger Williams for the NRCC chair position in mid-November.

Barton’s voting record is more conservative than Walden or Shimkus, but it wasn’t enough to win the position. He acknowledged in May during the beginning of his campaign, “I’m certainly not the leading candidate.”

Texans control seven House committees, more than any other state.

“The Energy and Commerce Committee will be a hub of activity next year,” Barton said. “I look forward to working with Chairman Walden as we move the country forward.”

Republican Fred Upton of Michigan has held the chairmanship since 2011 but must step down because of party-imposed term limits.

Alex Daugherty: 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty