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November 2010, Week 1

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Meet the Likely House Committee Chairs -- 
Who Promise to Roll Back `Job-Killing' Regs
by Marian Wang
ProPublica
November 4, 2010, 10:11
http://www.propublica.org/blog/item/meet-the-likely-house-committee-chairs-promise-roll-back-regulation

Earlier this week, we highlighted a few ways [1] that
midterm elections could affect some of the issues we've
dogged in the past few months-the foreclosure scandal,
financial reform, healthcare reform, among others.

Impending Republican control of the House means there
will be new leaders on powerful House committees [2].
Those committees oversee a number of issues we've
covered, including the investigation of federal
agencies, the strength of financial reform, and the
future of energy policy.

Here's a quick introduction-or reintroduction-to some of
the lawmakers who will likely win these important
chairmanships. Many of them, you'll note, have stated
publicly their opposition to "job-killing" regulation of
the financial community and energy industry-in line with
the GOP's Pledge to America [3].

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Remember Darrell Issa, the Republican lawmaker who a New
York Times profile nicknamed "Obama's Annoyer-in-Chief
[4]" for his tendency to make a fuss on so-called
"nuisance issues"? Assuming he becomes chairman, Issa
will have subpoena authority, which means he'll have the
power to launch investigations into many of the
suspicions he's raised about the Obama administration
[5].

Following the Republican gains in the House, Issa pushed
back against fears that the investigations he initiates
will be driven by partisan motivations.

"I want to prove the pundits wrong. My job is not to
bring down the president [6]. My job is to make the
president a success," he told reporters. "I'm going to
stick to my knitting, which is waste, fraud and abuse,
whenever possible."

Talking Points Memo flagged four likely issues for
investigation [7], noting that Issa had more or less
laid out his agenda [8] for oversight of the executive
branch in an earlier report. That report noted "hearings
requested by the Republican Minority but ignored by the
Democratic Majority," including investigations into
Fannie and Freddie, failures at the SEC, and inadequate
response to BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Issa has since told reporters [9] that he'd likely focus
on earmark reform and investigate the President's use of
advisers, or "czars [10]," who don't have to go through
Senate confirmation. He has also said that he will
"absolutely" advocate granting subpoena power to the
primary 74 inspectors general [11] who serve as
watchdogs at various federal agencies. Currently only
the Defense Department's inspector general has that
authority.

House Financial Services Committee

With the shift of power to House Republicans, Rep.
Barney Frank-whose name is on the Dodd-Frank financial
reform bill-will be relinquishing his position as
chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

His most likely successor is Rep. Spencer Bachus, a
Republican from Alabama who has previously issued the
following statement [12] pertaining to the financial
reform bill:

    "The administration will no longer receive a pass
    when it comes to aggressive oversight of their
    failed economic policies, and that includes
    extensive review of all the job-killing provisions
    in [the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer
    Protection Act]."

Some of those "job-killing provisions" include the new
rules requiring derivatives [13] to be traded on
exchanges and routed through clearinghouses, according
to comments made Wednesday [14] by Bachus. Putting
derivatives on open exchanges, he told CNBC [15], "is
just one example of something that is going to dry up
liquidity, that is going to impact the economy, and is
going to cost jobs."

As chairman, he would also be overseeing the overhaul-
or, as it might be viewed, the privatization-of
government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and
Freddie Mac. Bachus has said that severing government
ties with the mortgage giants is necessary, though the
"withdrawal process" may be painful for borrowers [16].

The House Republican Steering Committee has to vote to
make Bachus' chairmanship official. He faces a challenge
for the position from Rep. Ed Royce, who announced on
Wednesday that he is also vying for it [17].

Royce has posted on his website a recent article by
American Banker [18] stating that he is "not looking to
repeal outright the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform law"
but is likely to "try and clip its wings."

House Energy and Commerce Committee

Two Republican lawmakers, Reps. Joe Barton and Fred
Upton, are facing off over chairmanship of the House
Energy and Commerce Committee, according to the Houston
Chronicle's FuelFix blog [19].

Rep. Barton, some may recall, is the lawmaker who
famously apologized to BP's then-CEO, Tony Hayward, for
what he called a "$20 billion shakedown [20]" of the
company by the Obama administration. (Obama had met with
BP executives in June to discuss setting aside $20
billion in an escrow account, from which to pay out
damages for Gulf residents affected by the spill [21].)

The apology to BP-which Barton retracted that same day
[22]-is just one hurdle standing between Barton and the
chairmanship. The other hurdle is technical.

Because Barton has served as chairman from 2004 to 2006
and then as ranking Republican, the GOP leadership
appears to be interpreting its term-limit rules in such
a way that would bar him from leading the committee for
another term. The Chronicle explains:

    To remain at the helm of the Energy and Commerce
    Committee, Barton would have to secure a waiver of
    the term limit rule. And, he would have to convince
    a GOP steering committee-and then a majority of the
    Republican party's incoming House members-that he
    deserves the post.

Barton's already started working on this. The Hill
reported that he sent a letter to incoming GOP lawmakers
[23] on Wednesday, touting his record of opposing cap-
and-trade and healthcare reform:

    "Over the past four years, as Ranking Member of the
    Committee on Energy and Commerce, I have led the
    charge against radical cap-and-trade legislation,
    fought the new entitlements and mandates that are
    the rotten core of President Obama's health care
    law, and consistently applied free market principles
    to legislative decisions," he wrote. "It's been an
    uphill battle, and I'm grateful that, thanks to your
    votes, the cavalry is riding to the rescue."

If his efforts don't succeed, Rep. Fred Upton, a
Michigan Republican, is next in line. His positions on
energy issues are outlined in this recent op-ed [24] he
wrote for the Washington Times. In it, he argues that
regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency,
Federal Communications Commission, and other agencies
are "smothering the economy."

"The government cannot buy or regulate its way out of
this mess," Upton wrote. "It's time for a new approach."

Several other Republicans on the committee are also
reportedly eyeing the chairmanship [25] but are not
expected to win over Upton. A power company lobbyist,
however, told the Chronicle that the committee's
leadership may not matter much-both top contenders "have
worked closely with the industry."

"Whether it's Mr. Barton or Mr. Upton," said Scott Segal
of Bracewell & Giuliani, "the Energy and Commerce
Committee is going to be friendlier to the business
community, more attentive to industrial jobs (and) more
balanced in its approach to energy policy."

___________________________________________

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