A war is brewing among the right wing over the chairmanship of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over health care, climate policy, and energy policy. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) is the leading contender, but Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) is seeking a waiver from Republican leadership to retake the gavel, while Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) are also in the hunt. Although the candidates are lockstep in opposition to the Obama agenda and in their intention to launch witch hunts against climate science, Upton is a relative moderate, having admitted in the past that greenhouse emissions should be reduced. In contrast, Barton — who famously apologized to BP this summer — is fully aligned with the oil and gas industry, with $1,482,630 in lifetime contributions.
Now this internal fight has exploded into a Tea Party battle royale. FreedomWorks, run by veteran GOP lobbyist Dick Armey, has launched Down With Upton, a website attacking “Big Government Republican Fred Upton” for a record “full of votes for more regulation, more spending, and more taxes.” In an email announcing the campaign, FreedomWorks cited Glenn Beck’s warning that “light bulbs are just the beginning”:
Fred Upton, currently considered the front-runner for chairmanship of the critical House Energy and Commerce committee, is far out of step with the Tea Party movement, the GOP and the American people as a whole. You may have heard Glenn Beck talking about Fred Upton introducing a bill to ban incandescent light bulbs in favor of so-called “environmentally-friendly” alternatives. The truth is, Fred Upton has a Big Government record a mile long, and light bulbs are just the beginning.
Upton has already reneged his position on light-bulb efficiency, telling Politico “he’s not afraid to go back after an issue he once supported but that has come under withering assault on the conservative airwaves, including on Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck’s talk shows.”
There was, in fact, no bill to ban incandescent light bulbs. Because of the advanced light-bulb standards Upton helped pass in 2007, “the incandescent bulb is turning into a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation,” the New York Times reported last year. “There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades.”
The Tea Party movement is increasingly attacking American innovation and 21st-century jobs on all fronts: Rush Limbaugh is leading the charge against the breakthrough Chevy Volt, Republican governors are killing high-speed rail, Glenn Beck is cooking up conspiracy theories about smart grid technology, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is trying to kill the wind industry, and the entire right-wing movement is convinced green jobs are going to destroy the United States economy.