Changes in Congress could mean more of same at House Commerce


The key Committee on Energy and Commerce has a great deal of say on legislation concerning communications in general and broadcasting in particular. And despite an expected upheaval in the makeup of the House, it’s possible some very familiar faces will be among the committee’s leaders.

The first is Joe Barton (R-TX). He has served two years as the committee’s chair and is finishing his fourth as ranking member. Republican caucus rules limit members to three terms in a top leadership position in a given committee, but according to The Hill, they are ambiguous as to whether time spent as a mere ranking member counts; and even if they do, Barton could apply for a waiver.

His stock went down earlier in the year when he publicly apologized to then-BP CEO Tony Hayward for actions taken by the US after the company’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But Barton says he is confident he can extract a waiver from his party and resume as chair of the committee.

The other member is Ed Markey (D-MA), who has long been a leader in the Communications Subcommittee, but left to pursue his interest in environmental issues. If Republicans take over the House, his ability to pursue those interests would be severely compromised, inducing him to consider returning to his communications post. Add to that the fact that the current subcommittee chair Rick Boucher (D-VA) is anything but a sure thing for re-election this year, and a Markey return to the top of the subcommittee becomes a real possibility.

RBR-TVBR observation: Both the Republican and the Democrat who may wind up in key spots in the committee are typical of what you’d expect based on their party affiliation.

Barton’s primary interest in the committee is the energy portion of its oversight. On communications matters, we would say he relies on free market orthodoxy when determining his stance on a given issue – think along the lines of FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell.

Markey is very much a traditional anti-consolidation pro-consumer Democrat, more than willing to apply government intervention when he believes it’s necessary. Think FCC Commissioner Michael Copps.