Lobbyists Launch Campaign on Centrists; Seek to Deny Them Leadership of Congressional Committees

Article excerpt

Byline: Sean Lengell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Conservative lobbies are pressing House Republicans to keep centrists from controlling key congressional panels, as House GOP leaders gather this week to pick committee leaders for the 112th Congress.

FreedomWorks has launched a public campaign against Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, who wants to lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee, saying he hasn't done enough to cut federal spending and has sided too often with Democrats.

A coalition of more than 20 conservative groups has opposed California Rep. Jerry Lewis' bid to become the top House appropriator, saying he has thwarted many efforts to rein in ever increasing appropriations bills, to cut or scale back wasteful and duplicative programs, or to accept any meaningful reforms.

Mr. Lewis and Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas, the energy panel's top Republican, have party-imposed term limits on their leadership posts. But both have petitioned the House Republican Steering Committee to waive the rule and allow them to serve as chairmen when the party takes control in early January.

The American Conservative Union, in a joint letter signed by 22 other conservative groups, warned presumptive House Speaker John A. Boehner that granting a waiver to Mr. Lewis would be a signal to the millions of independents and members of the tea party movement who took a chance on Republicans in the election, that you have ignored their message of change, and that instead it will be business as usual in Washington.

Mr. Boehner, who heads the steering committee, has had a tense relationship with Mr. Barton and may be reluctant to grant him another leadership term. If the Texan's request is denied, Mr. Upton, who won a 13th term in the House on Nov. 2, is next in line for the post.

But Mr. Upton faces opposition from some conservatives upset with several of his past votes, including his support of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout in 2008 and his vote against extending the Bush administration's tax cuts in 2005.

FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group led by former House Republican Leader Dick Armey, says the lawmaker's record is full of votes for more regulation, more spending and more taxes.

The group's Down With Upton petition, which urges the steering committee to oppose Mr. Upton's quest for the chairmanship, has gathered more than 27,000 signatures nationwide.

GOP Reps. Cliff Stearns of Florida and John Shimkus of Illinois, who also are vying for energy panel chairmanship, are viewed as possible compromise candidates to Mr. …