When it comes to committee chairs, Republicans like to shuffle the deck on a regular basis, and that means that House Energy and Commerce ranking minority member and former Chair Joe Barton (R-TX) is likely on the way out – although he is asking for a waiver to extend his stay at the top of the committee. That isn’t stopping speculation as to who is moving up should Barton step down.
Two of the three getting prominent mention as contenders have experience on the Communications subcommittee. Fred Upton (R-MI) was in that post recently, and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) is currently head of the Republicans on that panel.
According to different Hill newspapers, Upton is thought to have the inside track, although one thinks his occasional moderate positions may hurt him in a caucus that is tilting more and more to the right.
Stearns is making no secret of his desire to move into the top slot, and recently contributed $300K to the Republican effort, giving it the Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) at a fund-raising event sponsored by NCTA. According to the Hill, however, that may be too little too late, bringing his total National Republican Congressional Committee contribution to $520K, almost $200K behind Upton.
A third committee member getting mention should Upton fail to garner sufficient support is John Shimkus (R-IL). He is more conservative than Upton, but has less seniority than both of the other two candidates and even lower on the NRCC contribution totem pole, with $315K kicked in so far this cycle.
RBR-TVBR observation: Looking for another round of radio consolidation? Then Upton may be your man. Some time ago he gave a speech suggesting that the current radio cap of eight co-owned stations in the largest markets is too low. On the other hand, he thought the fine structure for broadcast indecency was too low, too, and was the House sponsor of the bill upping the top drawer fine into six digits.