Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel

Several House Republicans are eyeing a run for the top GOP seat on the Natural Resources Committee, which will be vacant after the retirement at the end of this Congress of Rep. Rob Bishop (Utah).

More than four members on the panel have voiced interest in taking over the powerful position. The possible contenders include Reps. Bruce Westerman (Ark.), Doug Lamborn (Colo.), Tom McClintock (Calif.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.).

The role comes with a broad portfolio to oversee energy and mineral resources, water, oceans and wildlife, as well as Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring, making it an attractive position for members representing states with rich natural resources.


One member who is already gearing up for the contest is Westerman, whose office recently sent out a note to GOP media contacts asking for them to reach out if they have previously “helped a current or former boss with a committee chairmanship run” before, according to a screenshot obtained by The Hill.

When asked whether he intends to throw his name in the ring, Westerman told The Hill: “I am looking at it.”

The Arkansas Republican, who describes himself on his website as an “engineer and forester by trade,” said that while it will be a great honor to serve in such a role, his current priority is regaining the House majority.

While Westerman is ninth in seniority among Republicans on the panel, which puts him behind several members also eyeing the spot, he is seen as a strong contender for the role. 

Lamborn is fourth in seniority, behind Bishop, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who has already served as chairman, and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), whom GOP leadership is unlikely to consider because of his reputation as a conservative bomb-thrower.  

“I am interested, yes,” Lamborn said when asked by The Hill about the role. He added that his “goal right now is to make sure Republicans are in the majority so that we are talking about chairmanships and not ranking memberships.”


McClintock is also believed to be interested in the role, according to a GOP source, but he declined to discuss the matter when asked by The Hill. He is sixth in seniority on the panel.

Gosar, who is seventh in seniority, is also expressing interest in the position.

“I am very accomplished with getting stuff done,” Gosar said, pointing to the way he helped turn the Western Caucus from a “sleepy” caucus into a “powerhouse.”

Gosar may be an unlikely contender, however, given a series of controversial tweets that have sparked a bit of a blowback. A GOP source familiar with the matter says Republican leadership has bristled at some of his messages on Twitter.

Several other members who are also senior members also have other reasons for not jockeying for this role.

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), who is fifth in seniority, is believed to be more interested in vying for the opening top seat on the House Armed Services Committee now that the panel’s ranking member, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), is retiring. And Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.), who is eighth in seniority, is planning to retire after this term.

Bishop, when asked about who is best poised to be his replacement, declined to name a specific individual, but the Utah Republican said each of the four named would bring a unique skill set to the position.

“Lamborn has been a subcommittee chair all over the place so he knows land issues, water issues, energy issues — he is that experienced. McClintock has been one of our go-to [members] for subcommittee chairs. He does his homework, he is always prepared for what he is doing,” Bishop told The Hill in an interview.

“Gosar has the Western Caucus so he knows all those people and the issues at the same time. And Westerman is like our resident forester, who once again has a unique perspective on those issues and has also traveled frequently to other events that we have had,” said Bishop, who is believed to be eyeing a run for the governor’s seat in Utah.

The Republican Steering Committee — a conglomeration of top Republicans who select who sits on and leads certain House panels — will decide who will ultimately take on the role. Those members take account of a series of factors including seniority, experience and the preferences of GOP leadership. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will have a heavy hand in deciding the next GOP panel leader. His vote counts as four votes, compared to most other members, who receive just one. 

In many cases, members can go in and pitch why they are seeking a certain leadership role. The panel then votes on its decisions shortly after the elections.

Prior to that, interested parties will likely begin preparing their visions for how they will lead the committee as well as voicing interest to the deciding parties.

And while such a vote is months away, some Republicans on the panel already are throwing their support behind candidates for the role.

“When you look at the top tier of the committee, I think that [Westerman] is absolutely one of the best choices,” said Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) when asked about potential contenders for the role. “I think he’s got an excellent background. I think he’s articulate and really well-versed in the issues.”

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