Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) was selected by the House Republican Steering Committee Tuesday to become the top GOP member on the House Armed Services Committee, replacing Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), who is leaving Congress to join the Obama administration as Secretary of the Army.
McKeon, a conservative member in his seventh term (lifetime ACU rating 90%), defeated Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), the committee member with the most seniority, and Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry (R-Texas), also a long-time member of the panel. While all three candidates are generally thought of as conservatives on national security issues, Bartlett may have been hurt by his support for the Obama administration’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, as well as his opposition to the PATRIOT Act, both positions that are out of step with most House Republicans.
The contest was seen by observers as significant because its winner would instantly become a leading spokesman for opposition to many of the Obama administrations military and security policies.
McKeon ‘s elevation to the top spot on the House Armed Services Committee means that he must step down from his current position as the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. Next in committee seniority is moderate Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), who lost a bid for chairman of the committee in 2006 to McKeon. Other senior Republicans include Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who’s retiring to run for Michigan governor this year (and would in any event not likely seek the post as it would require him to surrender his powerful perch as the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee), and moderate Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), a possible candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), a strong social conservative elected in the 1994 Republican Revolution and ranking fifth in committee seniority, is the only conservative who ranks near the top of the committee. No members have publicly announced whether or not they’re running for McKeon’s old job.