The Magazine

The Agony of Victory

It’s the age of anxiety for Republicans.

Dec 26, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 15 • By FRED BARNES
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Going after Upton is both divisive and childish. As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Upton has been one of the Republican surprises of 2010, a stalwart on important conservative initiatives on health care, energy, and the environment.

When Majority Leader Eric Cantor issued a list of 10 measures to curb regulatory excess, all 10 had come from Upton’s committee, including bills to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases and to force it to withdraw regulations on boilers, cement facilities, and utilities.

Would Obama have taken overregulation of ozone off the table if Upton hadn’t gone after the EPA with such vigor? Not likely. Erickson said Upton, as a member of the bipartisan supercommittee, “seem[ed] hellbent on raising your taxes.” Yet he backed a cut in individual and corporate tax rates and opposed any tax hike at all.

Upton has been blamed for passage of the lightbulb bill in 2007 that requires replacement of incandescent lights by compact fluorescent bulbs. In truth, the Energy and Commerce Committee passed the bill overwhelmingly by a voice vote, including Upton’s.

When he became chairman this year, Upton promised to repeal the bill. While it appeared nothing would happen in 2011, Upton worked quietly to avoid alarming environmental groups with clout on Capitol Hill. “Our eye was on the prize,” a committee staffer says.

The prize was won. In the bipartisan spending bill for 2012, enforcement of the law on lightbulbs was banned. So save your old incandescent bulbs and expect to find more of them on sale again. A small Republican victory, for sure, but also reason for good cheer and less fretfulness among Republicans.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

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