Joe Barton leading GOP charge to push energy bill through House

Undaunted by repeated defeats, House Republicans are having yet another go at crafting energy legislation that can make it through the Senate while still preserving massive energy-industry subsidies and tax breaks. This time around, they’ll have a powerful ally in the new chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), one of the few politicians who can rival President Bush himself as a recipient of energy-industry largesse. Barton’s carefully executed bid to take the reins of this powerful committee — which oversees more than half of the legislation that moves through the House — was backed by the oil, gas, electricity, nuclear, coal, and chemical industries, which have collectively given him $1.84 million since 1997, more than any other House member. Since then he’s hired a battery of industry lobbyists to his staff, gearing up to, among other things, push his long-held priorities of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and indemnifying producers of the gas additive MTBE.