Greg Walden, Oregon’s lone GOP Member of Congress, has won the coveted chairmanship of House Energy and Commerce, making him one of the most important go-to Republicans in the Pacific Northwest.
Walden, who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee – the campaign arm of House Republicans, defeated Illinois Congressman John Shimkus, who has more seniority than Walden and had been campaigning for the chairmanship for months while Walden was on the stump helping fellow Republicans.
Two key influencers of his victory were House Speaker Paul Ryan and Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who chairs the House GOP Conference and also sits on House Energy and Commerce. Their endorsements of Walden were in effect a reward for his campaign work that extended through the 2016 election. Ryan’s endorsement was especially noteworthy because he previously has backed colleagues with the most seniority for committee chairmanships.
When the next Congress convenes in January, Walden will wield the gavel of one of the most powerful committees in Congress outside the appropriations and tax-writing committees. The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s sprawling jurisdiction, which includes health care, telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, energy delivery and interstate and foreign commerce, is the handiwork of former long-time Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich. Dingell also famously used the committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee to great political advantage, often shaming CEOs in public.
Walden, whose family business is owning radio stations, has chaired the Telecommunications and Technology Subcommittee. He now will be to expand his influence on the committee’s broader agenda. That broad agenda is likely to raise his public visibility greatly.
The Health Subcommittee is a key stop for legislation to replace Obamacare. The Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee will be in the bullseye of Trump administration efforts to alter international trade deals, block U.S. outsourcing of jobs overseas and promoting increased domestic manufacturing. The Energy and Power Subcommittee will play a role in GOP efforts to block Obama administration climate change efforts perceived as anti-coal and anti-fossils fuels.
The committee also has a select subcommittee to look at Planned Parenthood funding.
Walden was elected to represent Oregon’s sprawling 2nd District in 1998 after serving eight years in the Oregon legislature, where he also rose to leadership positions because of his affable, even-handed approach to politics.
He won a seat on House Energy and Commerce in 2001 and gradually has moved up the committee’s seniority ladder. Walden served four years as deputy chair of the NRCC before becoming its chair for four years. Walden graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism and his family home is in Hood River.