Republican asks to expand power of energy panel
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A key Republican on Thursday asked lawmakers to consolidate energy oversight in the House of Representatives into one powerful energy committee.
Doc Hastings, the expected incoming head of the House Natural Resources Committee, called for expanding his panel's jurisdiction to cover all energy policy. This expanded panel would be renamed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Currently the Natural Resources Committee shares authority over energy legislation with the Energy and Commerce committee.
"This proposal would marry together our nation's broad energy policy with the vast majority of America's actual energy resources that are on our federal lands and offshore," Hastings said.
Under the existing system the Natural Resources committee oversees energy development on public lands, while Energy and Commerce covers oversees general energy policy.
Energy and Commerce's broad mandate also extends to healthcare, consumer protection and tourism. Hastings said stripping energy from the panel's duties would give it more time to focus on the healthcare reform law passed earlier this year, which Republicans want to overturn.
Republican members of the Energy and Commerce committee quickly and vehemently pushed back against this proposal, however.
"This ill-advised proposition could not come at worse time and would have dire consequences," said Michigan Republican Fred Upton, a leading contender to lead the Energy and Commerce committee next year.
Republicans picked up a record number of seats in mid-term elections earlier this month, securing control of the House. With plans to use their new power to fight against the Obama administration's energy policies, Upton said Hastings' plan would "weaken our hands."
At the same time all returning Republican members of the Energy and Commerce committee sent a letter to party leadership on Thursday, vowing to vote against any rules package that lessens the influence of the panel.
"The worst possible way to answer the American people's cry for transparency and responsibility would be to cut an inside-Washington deal that ferrets jurisdiction away from committees that have proven their moxie," the letter said.
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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