Most House Republicans envision killing Nancy Pelosi’s special global warming committee if they claw their way back into the majority this November. But one senior GOP lawmaker has another idea in mind: sweet revenge. Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner wants to keep the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming alive so it can investigate climate science and police President Barack Obama’s green policies.
The 16-term congressman said he’s well-positioned to take on that leadership role, touting credentials as a former chairman of the Judiciary and Science and Technology committees, where he pried information out of the Clinton administration without ever signing a subpoena.
“I’ve had a reputation of really being a tiger on oversight,” he told POLITICO.
Any decisions on the future of the select committee, where Sensenbrenner is the top Republican opposite Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.), won’t be made until after the midterm elections.
But Sensenbrenner’s remarks foretell a power struggle among top Republicans primed to lead other investigatory committees, namely, Rep. Darrell Issa, the media-hungry Californian who would like to comb through Obama’s policies as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“There’s going to be plenty of oversight to do, and all the committees should be doing oversight, not just Government Reform and Oversight, or whatever it’s going to be called,” Sensenbrenner said. “When I ran for, and was named chairman of, Judiciary, I said I’d have exclusive oversight staff, nothing to do with legislation. With this committee, since it’s not legislative in nature, everybody on the majority side is going to be working on oversight if it’s maintained.”
Issa told POLITICO last week that he would use his panel to conduct inquiries into the stolen “Climategate” e-mails that global warming skeptics say show collusion among prominent scientists, although independent reviews have found nothing of the sort. And he would pay closer attention to the Environmental Protection Agency to make sure it follows proper administrative procedures when crafting regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As for any additional reviews of Obama’s climate policy, Issa said those belong in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which means the House doesn’t seem to have room in 2011 for the global warming panel.
Fewer “committees with more real jurisdiction should be our goal,” Issa said. “This was a made-up committee for show and for travel and much less any real jurisdiction.”
Told that Sensenbrenner had displayed an interest in keeping the panel going, Issa replied, “He’s made statements about how little he thinks of the committee well before he thought about being chairman.”
Sensenbrenner, a skeptic on the science connecting man-made carbon dioxide emissions to global warming, predicted in December 2008 that Democrats would lose the House if they pursued cap and trade. But he does employ a top-tier environmental staffer in Harlan Watson, George W. Bush’s former top climate negotiator. He also has options: He could attempt to reclaim the science committee gavel for two more years, for example.
Other GOP members who have served with Sensenbrenner say the global warming panel should disappear.
“When we talk about needing to reduce the size of government and put things back in proper order, the Energy and Commerce Committee could probably handle that workload,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).
“I don’t think we need it,” added Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.).
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, said he’s not been privy to any talk among Republicans about the panel’s fate.
House Democrats had their own internal rifts over the select committee when Speaker Pelosi established it at the beginning of 2007, partially as a way to placate Markey, who was being passed over for chairmanship of the Natural Resources Committee.
Then-Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) circulated a memo at the time calling the panel as relevant as “feathers on a fish” because it had no jurisdiction for moving energy legislation.
But that didn’t stop Markey, who has taken on something of an energy minister role under Pelosi. He’s accompanied the speaker on climate-themed trips to Canada, India, China, Germany, Greenland and last December’s United Nations-led negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark.