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Upton Endorsed Over Barton to Lead House Energy Panel

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Representative Fred Upton won the endorsement of a Republican leadership panel in a contest with Joe Barton and two colleagues to become the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee next year.

The Republican Steering Committee, which nominates leaders for congressional panels, chose Upton of Michigan over objections of party activists who said he wasn’t conservative enough. They cited his support of bills phasing out the incandescent light bulb and expanding a federal health insurance program for children should disqualify him. The full Republican conference may vote on the recommendations tomorrow.

“We face many challenges, but priority No. 1 is to repeal the job-killing Obamacare law,” Upton said today in an e-mailed statement. “Energy and Commerce will also immediately adopt new rules to cut spending and restore fiscal responsibility.”

Barton, a Texas Republican, can appeal and ask his colleagues to choose him instead. Steering committee recommendations typically are adopted by the conference.

Representatives Cliff Stearns of Florida and John Shimkus of Illinois also sought the chairmanship of the energy and commerce panel, where Republicans probably will start efforts to repeal the health-care overhaul law and block environmental initiatives pushed by President Barack Obama.

Upton overcame opposition from FreedomWorks, a Washington group aligned with the Tea Party movement that supports less government and lower spending, and radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, who cited the light-bulb bill as an example of federal “nannyism.”

Opposition Campaign

FreedomWorks mounted a “Down with Upton” Web campaign and this week delivered more than 35,000 petitions opposing his candidacy, said Max Pappas, vice president of public policy for the group. An additional 2,200 people called steering committee members, Pappas said in an e-mail.

When the candidates made their cases to the committee last week, Upton showed the panel articles from David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, and other Republicans in support of his candidacy.

Representative Doc Hastings, the incoming chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, continued his push to limit the authority of the energy and commerce panel. The Washington state Republican wants to claim jurisdiction over energy policy from the energy committee, a move opposed by Upton and Barton.

The resources panel now oversees energy development on federal lands and in offshore waters.

Hastings argues the shift would allow one committee to focus on health-care repeal while the other pursues party’s energy agenda.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jim Snyder in Washington at jsnyder24@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net.

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