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Michael Burgess

11/27/2020 | Press release | Archived content

Dallas Morning News: Pilot Point Rep. Michael Burgess vies for top Republican spot on powerful House Energy and Commerce panel

by Tom Benning

WASHINGTON - Pilot Point Rep. Michael Burgess will never forget an early markup he participated in as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

A fellow Texas Republican, then-Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis, was the chairman. One of the panel's Democrats, then-Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, offered an amendment related to the energy efficiency of ceiling fans. The debate on that one provision lasted a staggering five hours.

'I did wonder, 'What in the world have I gotten myself into?'' Burgess recalled with a laugh.

But the moment was also clarifying, confirming a career path in Congress that's now led him to compete for the top Republican spot on the illustrious House committee.

'When I got to Congress, I knew if I was going to be useful, if I was going to be effective, my place was doing the policy work in the committees,' he told The Dallas Morning News.

'I really didn't aspire to elected leadership in the House,' said Burgess, who was first elected in 2002. 'I certainly wasn't using this as a stepping-stone to a different elected office. This was where I belonged, and this is where my work was.'

Burgess is vying against two other GOP stalwarts for the party's top spot on the House Energy and Commerce panel: Ohio Rep. Bob Latta and Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

The competition, which will be settled by the House GOP's steering panel after Thanksgiving, is intense. The committee's portfolio includes everything from energy to tech to health care to telecom, with Burgess estimating that it covers 'over 40% of the domestic economy.'

None of those responsibilities looms larger these days than the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

'We're kind of in a countrywide health care crisis right now, so I don't think there's ever been a better time to have a doctor at the head of Energy and Commerce,' said Burgess, an OB/GYN who's one of a dozen or so medical doctors in the House.

Another major factor is the reality that whoever wins the panel's top GOP spot will have a strong chance to soon be chairman or chairwoman.

Republicans narrowed the Democrats' majority in the House in this month's election. History also suggests that they will perform well in two years, given that the opposite party of a new president - in this case, Democrat Joe Biden - tends to do well in the first midterm of that tenure.

Burgess and other GOP'ers have stood by President Donald Trump as he fights his election loss. The Texan, at one point, did reference the 'incoming administration.' But he didn't call Biden the president-elect, explaining that Americans need certainty the race was 'fair and transparent.'

Burgess noted that 'no one in their right mind runs for ranking member of the committee.'

'The path to the chair of the committee is pretty apparent right now,' he predicted. 'Regardless of who's president, the handwriting is on the wall. The Republicans are going to pick up more seats in the next election, and we'll be back in the majority.'

Here are some other takeaways from Burgess' chat with The News:

He said the COVID-19 outbreak has to be at the top of the committee's list, even amid the encouraging news of late about potential vaccines.

'You can't really get over the economic elements until you beat the virus. There's good news that has emerged in the last couple of weeks. It's wonderful news. We're all excited by the fact that really you can see the day when this problem is going to be in the rearview mirror.'

Burgess is looking forward to asking the Food and Drug Administration about the emergency authorizations it's had to make to 'allow us to simply survive' the pandemic.

'If you require that many emergency authorizations, maybe you ought to look at your regulations. Is there a way to get the FDA to function efficiently and perhaps in a little bit more transparent fashion? People do need to have confidence in their decisions. But … some of their decisions seem to take an extremely long period of time when there's a lot on the line.'

His proudest accomplishment to date is leading the repeal of what he called a 'very unfair Medicare formula' known as the 'sustainable growth rate.'

'It had sort of bedeviled Washington for almost 20 years. … It was a bipartisan effort. Obviously, that was done when President [Barack] Obama was president. That, to me, represents legislating done right … building this thing from the membership level up.'

Burgess has strong backup for his committee bid from his fellow Texas Republicans, with Fort Worth Rep. Kay Granger saying that she's 'never seen him critical of people' and that 'he is always looking for solutions.' He said there's a lot at stake for his home state.

'Texans ought to care about the leadership of the committee, because it does matter.'

He pointed to the recent double whammy Texas received on the oil and gas front due to the pandemic and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

'The number of people who lost their jobs, not just in the direct production side, but in all of the other ancillary activities, even people in the hotel and lodging business, people in the food and restaurant business. All of those businesses were adversely affected.'

Burgess said 'everyone should be concerned about the quality of the environment.' But he added that the 'oil and gas industry has really a pretty good story to tell with innovation.'

'The reduction of carbon levels in the atmosphere since 2005 have been truly significant. … We're actually doing a better job with allowing the industry the freedom to innovate … than we would've through taxation and regulation.'

He expressed concern about Biden's criticism of fossil fuels and fracking. But he also noted that he's 'worked with presidents of both parties in the past.'

'There are always going to be opportunities for collaboration. We'll look for those and try to be as open-minded as possible.'

Burgess has some serious questions for Big Tech about the liability shield known as Section 230.

'Unfortunately, you've seen some of the biggest of the big in the tech industry say, 'We don't regulate content,' and then at the same time, they're regulating content. … Clearly they were exercising editorial control over the content sometimes, but it certainly didn't seem to be a fair or transparent process.'

Published here.