THE LESSONS LEARNED FROM ‘LIGHTBULBGATE’…. House Republicans have not yet decided who’ll chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but we’re down to three finalists. The competition tells us quite a bit about the state of the GOP caucus.

A leading contender is currently the committee’s ranking member, Texas’ Joe Barton, best known for apologizing to BP for its oil spill and being Congress’ most pro-pollution lawmaker. He’ll fight for the gavel with Illinois’ John Shimkus, who’s made a name for himself by refuting science with his understanding of the Bible.

The third competitor is Michigan’s Fred Upton, a conservative Republican, but a relative moderate by 2010 standards. He’s facing far-right attacks this week over, of all things, light bulbs.

Hoping to counter attacks from his right, Rep. Fred Upton is promising to reexamine a controversial ban on incandescent light bulbs if he becomes chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Michigan Republican told POLITICO on Thursday that he’s not afraid to go back after an issue he once supported but that has come under withering assault on the conservative airwaves, including on Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck’s talk shows.

“If I become chairman, we’ll be reexamining the light bulb issue, no problem,” Upton said.

Upton’s bid to be the next Energy and Commerce Committee leader has been rocked by allegations that he’s too moderate for the post.

Beck called him “all socialist” for cosponsoring legislation phasing out incandescent light bulbs that made it into a 2007 energy law signed by President George W. Bush. An unsigned 22-page document highlighting Upton’s voting record on a range of fiscal, social and policy has also been circulating around Capitol Hill this month.

Just so we’re clear, one of the central issues for Republicans in the 21st century, when picking a lawmaker to chair a committee dealing with energy, is protection for a 19th-century-style light bulb.

For the record, Upton did some admirable work on this in 2007, putting in place a phase-out of the energy-inefficient incandescent bulbs. The provision was approved with bipartisan support, and the larger legislation was easily passed and signed by President Bush.

But that was 2007, and the party has moved even further to the right since. Now, in order to even be considered for a post, Upton not only has to endure attacks from the likes of Limbaugh and Beck, he also has to promise to revisit his sensible bill. Dave Weigel jokingly referred to this as “Lightbulbgate.”

The lesson, apparently, for congressional Republicans: if you intend to get ahead on the Hill, never do anything the right-wing might not like.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.