Utah Representative Likely Has Clear Path To Chair House Natural Resources Panel

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By Anthony Adragna

Oct. 2 — Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) appears to have a clear path to chair the House Natural Resources Committee to succeed retiring chairman Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) after the only Republican in Bishop's path told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 2 that he wouldn't run.

“[Bishop] is actively working toward that goal and is hopeful that he will be selected as the next chairman,” Melissa Subbotin, an aide to Bishop, told Bloomberg BNA. “Despite there being significant support behind his bid for chairman, he takes nothing for granted.”

Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) have greater seniority on the committee than Bishop. But Young can't run due to House Republican term limits and Gohmert—Bishop's only obstacle to the chairmanship—told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail he wouldn't challenge Bishop for the chairmanship.

For Bishop to lose, he would have to be upset by a less-senior committee member.

“Rob and I have been of a common spirit on most every issue,” Gohmert said of Bishop. “I can think of no one who would do a better job of leading that critical committee at this crucial time than [Bishop]. He would be a great chairman and I fully support his chairmanship—as long as my support does not hurt him.”

Said ‘Dedicated’ to Natural Resources.

Subbotin, Bishop's aide, described the Utah congressman as one of the “most dedicated” members of Congress on natural resources issues and said he has worked hard to educate both Democrats and Republicans about these issues. Bishop currently chairs the House Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Subcommittee within the broader committee.

Todd Willens, chief of staff to Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) who chairs the Congressional Western Caucus, said his boss fully supports Bishop's candidacy and expected the caucus would as well, but it had not yet meet to discuss it.

First elected to the House in 2003, Bishop represents the first district of Utah. He won re-election with 71.5 percent of the vote in 2012.

According to his website, Bishop strongly supports greater development of domestic energy sources to reduce American reliance on foreign energy sources. He supports regulations that “strike a balance for wise management of our public lands and resources.”

Young Won't Run.

An aide to Young confirmed he wouldn't seek the post because House Republican rules prohibit him from doing so. He chaired the committee from 1995 through 2001.

The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee will first have to clear the Republican Party Steering Committee, an arm of the House Republican leadership. That selection is then voted on by the full Republican conference.

Young is prohibited from continuing as chairman under Rule 14(e) of the House Republican conference, which prohibits members from serving more than three terms as chairman or a ranking member on a committee.

Young has backed Bishop to become chairman of the committee.

Hastings, who has chaired the committee since 2011, announced in February he planned to retire from Congress at the end of his current term. He hasn't said whom he would prefer to succeed him.

With assistance from Dean Scott in Washington

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at aadragna@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com