Rep. Joe Barton (R)
Texas 6th District
The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex—a name even the locals use—has spread outward from its historic nodes in downtown Dallas and downtown Fort Worth. Although Dallas is the larger population center, much of the development has moved west, across the plains and the barely perceptible Balcones Escarpment, the geologist’s boundary between green and grassy East Texas and brown, barren and hilly West. The plains have been filled in with subdivisions and shopping centers under the enormous Texas sky. Among the larger suburbs is Arlington, right between Dallas and Fort Worth and an easy highway commute to both cities. Its location has made it ideal as a site for regional attractions like Six Flags over Texas and the Ballpark in Arlington, commissioned by the former part-owner of the Texas Rangers, George W. Bush. In 2009, the Dallas Cowboys football team opened a new stadium in Arlington. The city’s population of 371,000 in 2007 was 26% Hispanic, 17% African-American and 6% Asian. Arlington provides extra pay to police officers who can speak Spanish or Vietnamese. As Arlington has filled up, the big growth now is to the south in Mansfield, where the population increased 76% from 2000 to 2007, and in Crowley. Growth in the area has been so robust that Tarrant County, the third-largest county in Texas, was the 18th largest in the country in 2007.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Texas includes all of Arlington and the southern fringe of Fort Worth to the west. Two-thirds of its people live in Arlington and Tarrant County. Much of the rest are in Ellis County, directly south of Dallas County, which has grown 24% since 2000. The district includes all or part of six counties to the southeast, reaching most of the way to Houston. Politically, this territory was ancestrally Democratic for many years, but no longer. It twice voted for Republican native son George W. Bush with 66%, and it voted for Republican nominee John McCain in 2008 with 60% of the vote.
Rep. Joe Barton (R)
Elected: 1984, 13th term.
Born: Sept. 15, 1949, Waco .
Education: Texas A&M U., B.S. 1972, Purdue U., M.S. 1973.
Religion: United Methodist.
Family: Married (Terri); 4 children.
Professional Career: Asst. to V.P., Ennis Business Forms, 1973–81; White House Fellow, U.S. Dept. of Energy, 1981–82; Consultant, Atlantic Richfield Co., 1982–84.
The congressman from the 6th District is Joe Barton, a Republican first elected in 1984. He is the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is a former chairman of the committee. Barton grew up in Ennis, in then-rural Ellis County. He graduated from Texas A&M and Purdue universities, worked as an oil company engineer and then was a White House Fellow. When Republican Rep. Phil Gramm ran successfully for the Senate in 1984, Barton ran for his 6th District House seat. Barton won the Republican runoff by only 10 votes, and he went on to win the general election with 57% of the vote. Although he remains a solid conservative, he sometimes strays to the center on cultural issues.
|Joe Barton (R)||174,008||(62%)||($1,934,766)|
|Ludwig Otto (D)||99,919||(36%)||($29,634)|
|Max Koch (Lib)||6,655||(2%)|
|Joe Barton (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (60%), 2004 (66%), 2002 (70%), 2000 (88%), 1998 (73%), 1996 (77%), 1994 (76%), 1992 (72%), 1990 (66%), 1988 (68%), 1986 (56%), 1984 (57%)
As the top Republican on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, Barton has had the unenviable duty in the last few years of leading the opposition against the panel’s formidable chairman, Henry Waxman of California, and against a Democratically-controlled Congress. He was the party’s lead spokesman against the sweeping climate change bill passed by the House in June 2009. The bill establishes a cap on greenhouse gas emissions scientists blame for global warming, aiming to reduce them by 80% from 2005 levels by 2050. Barton, who has long questioned the scientific underpinnings of global warming legislation, called it “a triumph of fear over good sense and science.” In 2007 hearings discussing global warming, he told former Democratic Vice President Al Gore, who has led the push for curbs on greenhouse gas emissions for several years, “You’re not just off a little. You’re totally wrong.”
Barton also has fought the Democrats’ health care proposals tooth-and-nail, but often is outgunned by Waxman there as well. In 2007, he worked with President George W. Bush to keep Republican centrists from signing on to the Democrats’ proposal to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The bill passed in 2007 by margins too narrow to override Bush’s veto. Democrats succeeded in passing a bill in 2009, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama. Also in 2009, he was the opposing voice on the committee when the Democrats unveiled a restricting of the nation’s health care delivery system. But on some issues, Barton sought common ground with Waxman, as he had with Waxman’s predecessor as chairman, Democrat John Dingell of Michigan. He worked with committee Democrats on a proposal to approve generic versions of biologic drugs following a 12-year period of exclusivity for the inventor to recoup costs. And he worked with Dingell and other Democrats for a consensus approach to improved electronic medical records.
In earlier years, Barton had enjoyed a fair degree of success in the majority on the committee. In 1995, he became chairman of the panel’s Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee and used the platform to conduct extensive hearings of the nation’s food and drug laws. The result was enactment, with bipartisan support, of significant modernization of the Food and Drug Administration, encouraging the agency to more quickly review innovative drugs and medical devices. In 1999, he became chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee with jurisdiction over energy legislation. He managed to reach agreement in 2001 with Dingell on higher fuel economy standards. Barton pressed for action on electricity regulation, but he retreated from requiring utilities to join regional transmission organizations and sought to encourage them to do so. His bill passed the House but died in the Senate.
In 2004, after full commerce chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., stepped down, Barton was selected to succeed him—the only Texan other than former Democratic speaker Sam Rayburn to hold the post. He aroused some partisan ire when in September of that year he blocked committee Democrats’ demand for information about Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2001 energy task force. But he also worked successfully to win Democratic votes on some issues and to defend and expand the committee’s jurisdiction. Telecommunications issues are a major responsibility of Energy and Commerce. In 2006, the House passed Barton’s bill to make it easier for telephone companies to enter the broadband market, but influential Democrats opposed the measure, and it died in the Senate.
On the 2005 energy bill, Barton insisted on retaining provisions protecting manufacturers of MTBE, a fuel additive that was discovered to be polluting groundwater. The bill became hung up over that provision as some lawmakers fought to hold the manufacturers responsible for expensive cleanup projects. Barton ultimately agreed to drop it in order to get a bill that could pass both chambers. He also convinced other Republicans to keep a provision allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the bill in order to remove another stumbling block. With his help, the GOP majority was able to enact major energy legislation with $12 billion in incentives, an inventory of oil and natural gas reserves, and a one-month extension of daylight savings time. Also in 2005, the House narrowly passed Barton’s bill to encourage the construction of new refineries, but it died in the Senate.
Energy and Commerce is a great platform for raising money for campaigns from deep-pocketed industries, and Barton raised much more money than he is ever likely to need to spend in his district. In 2004, he hosted a fundraiser for Republican Billy Tauzin III, who was running for his father’s old seat, just as Tauzin had hosted a fundraiser for Barton’s son when he ran for Congress (both sons lost). At home, Barton was criticized by Democrats for seeking in 2003 and 2004 to keep Ellis County outside the Environmental Protection Agency’s Dallas region in applications of the stringent rules of the Clean Air Act. Ellis County is home to three cement producers and other companies whose political action committees and executives were big contributors to Barton’s campaigns, and the county produces 40% of the industrial emissions in North Texas. Barton said there was no connection between the contributions and his action and argued that there was no scientific basis for Ellis County’s inclusion. But in 2004 the EPA decided otherwise and that Ellis County must take steps to reduce air pollution.
One of Barton’s early projects was trying to secure funding for the proposed Superconducting Super Collider, an enormous scientific laboratory that was to have been built in Waxahachie in Ellis County. But the House voted in 1993 to zero out the project. Another of his early causes was a proposed constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. When the House took up the issue in 1995, Barton managed to pull together 253 votes, though he fell short of the 290 votes needed. Nevertheless, Barton claimed progress after many states approved tax-limitation plans.
Barton has had some political disappointments. He ran for the Senate in 1993 after Democrat Lloyd Bentsen resigned to become President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary. He finished third with just 14% of the vote in the all-party primary. In September 2001, when Gramm announced his retirement from the Senate, Barton considered running for his seat. But the Bush White House favored Texas Attorney General John Cornyn for the seat and Barton stepped aside. After the 2006 election, he made a bid for minority leader, but discovered that John Boehner, R-Ohio, had wrapped up sufficient votes to win. Barton withdrew after six days.
He has been re-elected easily in the 6th District. He suffered a heart attack in December 2005 but made a full recovery. Under House Republicans’ term limit rules, he would be required to step down from the top post at Energy and Commerce after 2010. He is said to be interested in running for Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat when she runs for governor in 2010.