By Emelie Rutherford
Tuesday’s congressional elections and a series of pending retirements are overhauling the Republican sides of the House and Senate armed services committees, while the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee (SAC-D) also is poised for a shakeup in the next Congress.
The House Appropriations Defense subcommittee (HAC-D), beyond losing two members to retirement later this year, was not dealt a major change Tuesday by voters. Its chairman, 17-term Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), and ranking member, 19-term Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), both were reelected after facing unexpectedly close races.
At least four members of the quartet of defense panels did not garner enough votes to return to Congress, according to Associated Press reports.
In one of the GOP’s hard-fought Senate losses, Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) member and freshman senator Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) lost to North Carolina Democratic state senator Kay Hagan.
House Armed Services Committee (HASC) freshman member Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.)–a Boeing [BA] supporter and one of the few Democratic casualties in the election marked by gains for the party in Congress and the White House–was bested by Lynn Jenkins, the state’s GOP treasurer. HASC member Rep. Thelma Drake (R-Va.), who has served two terms, was beat by Democrat Glenn Nye, a veteran of the foreign service. And fellow committee member Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) lost his bid for reelection to a sixth term to Democratic challenger and teacher Larry Kissell.
Questions lingered yesterday about the reelection bid of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who was convicted last month on felony corruption charges and, even if he is able to overcome hurdles and remain in the Senate for a seventh term next year, is not expected to regain the position of SAC-D ranking member (Defense Daily, Nov. 4). As of Defense Daily‘s deadline yesterday, Stevens was ahead of Democratic challenger Mark Begich, the major of Anchorage, in the vote count, though tallying absentee ballots was expected to delay a final decision.
The outcome of the battle between freshman SASC member Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Democrat Jim Martin, a former state lawmaker, also was not clear yesterday. The AP reported yesterday afternoon that Chambliss did not win more than 50 percent of the vote, and thus under Georgia law there would be a runoff election on Dec. 2.
The 111th Congress won’t convene until Jan. 3, 17 days before Democratic President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration. But lawmakers are expected to hold leadership elections and decide committee chairman and ranking member posts this month.
For the SAC-D, likely Stevens successors for the top GOP spot include Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)–the ranking member of the full Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) and acting defense subcommittee GOP leader since Stevens’ July indictment–and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)–the next-ranking subcommittee Republican after Stevens.
Also, SAC-D Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) could be positioned to become SAC chairman, as pressure is increasing on current SAC Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) to step down because of his failing health. If this happens, Inouye potentially could retain the defense subcommittee post as well.
SAC-D member and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) won a hard-fought reelection battle for a fifth term Tuesday against Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford, a state politician. Subcommittee member Sen. Peter Domenici (R-N.M.) is retiring after serving in the Senate since 1973.
Big changes are coming to the HASC, which is losing its ranking member, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), to retirement. (His son, 31-year-old Duncan D. Hunter, won his seat.)
Sources said Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) is best positioned for the ranking member spot, which also could go to HASC members Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) or Roscoe Bartlett (R- Md.). McHugh is ranking member on the Military Personnel subcommittee; Thornberry is the top Republican on the Terrorism and Unconventional Threats and Capabilities subcommittee; and Bartlett is the ranking member of the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces subcommittee.
In addition, the HASC subcommittee ranking member spots are due for a rejiggering. Reps. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), ranking member on the Air and Land Forces subcommittee, and Terry Everett (R-Ala.), ranking member on the Strategic Forces subcommittee, both are retiring. Also, McHugh and Bartlett potentially could not keep their current subcommittee leadership spots, even if they wanted to, because current House Republican rules limit members’ consecutive leadership of the panels to three terms. Those rules, though, could be changed later this month when leadership and committee decisions are made.
The HASC also is losing member Rep. Mark Udall (D-Co.), who on Tuesday won an open Senate seat in his state.
The SASC, meanwhile, appears poised to welcome back its ranking member, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who lost the presidential election Tuesday and still has two more years in his Senate term. The number-two ranking member and 30-year senator John Warner (R-Va.) is retiring, putting Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) right behind McCain.
Three GOP SASC members won closely watched reelection battles: Sens. John Cornyn (Tex.), the ranking member on the Airland subcommittee; Susan Collins (Maine); and Roger Wicker (Miss.). Cornyn, a freshman, beat Democrat Rick Noriega, a Texas state lawmaker. Two-term senator Collins beat Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine). Wicker–who was appointed to his Mississippi seat after former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) retired last year–earned more votes than Democratic challenger and former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
The continued party status of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I/D-Conn.), chairman of the SASC Airland subcommittee, remains to be seen. He reportedly plans to meet today with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) about his future in the Senate Democratic Conference. Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, vexed Democrats by supporting McCain’s presidential bid and criticizing Obama.
On the HAC-D, Murtha beat Democratic challenger William Russell, a retired Army colonel, and Young bested Democrat Bob Hackworth, a state politician. Subcommittee members Rep. Bud Cramer (D-Ala.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio) are retiring, both after nine terms in the House.