Upton Wins Key House Committee Nod After Opposition From Pro-Lifers

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 7, 2010   |   7:11PM   |   Washington, DC

In an internal battle at the House of Representatives, Michigan congressman Fred Upton has tentatively won the fight to lead the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.

Upton will likely become the chairman of the panel, which will have enormous oversight on the battle to dismantle abortion-funding ObamaCare, despite strong opposition from pro-life organizations that cited his spotty pro-life voting record.

Upton won critical support from top Republican lawmakers today, including pro-life Speaker-Elect John Boehner, who named him to head the panel.

The full Republican caucus is expected to vote Wednesday on Upton and other nominees for chairmanships of House committees in the next Congress but the support is seen as paving the way for his victory. Rep. Joe Barton, a pro-life advocate from Texas, has waged a campaign to become the chairman but political observers don’t expect him to beat Upton tomorrow — if he runs.

Some top pro-life conservative lawmakers have urged Barton to run, but others, according to Politico, have said he should not in order to avoid what would likely be a defeat that could cost him some of his political capital.

Upton won the support of top Republican brass after making extensive promises, including that he would be open to dramatic changes to the ObamaCare legislation and a bill to repeal it or de-fund it — both of which Republicans promised in various formats they would pursue. Boehner and his top leadership apparently have enough confidence that Upton will toe the party line on ObamaCare and abortion to have named him to head the committee.

Boehner, in a statement LifeNews.com received, cited those commitments in the House GOP Steering Committee naming Upton and other committee chairs.

“The members of our new majority have made a pledge to America to focus on the American people’s priorities,” he said, citing the “job-killing health care law” and “protecting life.”

“Each of the candidates recommended by the Steering Committee today has committed to advancing these priorities if entrusted with the responsibility of serving the people of this nation as a committee chair,” he added.

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, says Upton is committed to the pro-life agenda.

“While Congressman Upton wasn’t our first choice, he personally assured me that the committee’s agenda would be one that conservatives can support, including our major priority for next year, Rep. Chris Smith’s legislation to take the federal government out of the abortion business,” he said.

Despite the apparent “loss” on the Upton battle, Politico indicates Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts, a pro-life champion, has the inside track on chairing the health subcommittee that would have first crack at overturning the abortion funding in ObamaCare or dismantling the entire government-run health care scheme.

The National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List contacted Republican lawmakers letting them know didn’t want Upton to chair the committee because of his weak pro-life voting record, and Americans United for Life followed suit with a letter of its own.

“For Representative Upton to claim that he is pro-life after amassing a record that is starkly contrary creates a serious credibility gap,” AUL’s letter said. “Representative Upton’s record on life issues demonstrates that he is not the right person to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee and to represent the pro-life leadership of the House.”

The Republican National Coalition for Life has also weighed in with its own concerns about Upton and his voting record on abortion.

The NRLC letter called for Pitts to head the subcommittee if Upton becomes chairman.

“Because Mr. Upton’s record demonstrates a disagreement with pro-life policies on multiple critical issues that fall within the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we urge you to withhold support for his ascension to the chairmanship unless and until there is assurance that the Health Subcommittee will be chaired by Mr. Pitts, and unless all of the Republican vacancies on the committee will be filled by Members who are firmly committed to pro-life positions,” NRLC legislative director Douglas Johnson wrote.

Upton is the next in line in terms of seniority to head the panel, and Republicans have historically supported the seniority system of selecting new chairmen as opposed to basing it on political issues.