The 2012 election brought some changes to the House and Senate armed services committees by way of upsets, gerrymandering, and retirements that could impact the Obama administration's plans for the Pentagon.
In the Senate, three big names on defense are retiring -- the hawkish Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), strong Navy advocate Jim Webb (D-VA), and elder statesman Daniel Akaka (D-HI). In the House, Republicans and Democrats both lost their 2nd-ranking members, and others. The names being erased from the roster are not necessarily the most notable on defense issues, but they free up slots for a new bench of players who likely will be pressed hard during Obama's second term to back -- or fight -- some of the president's more controversial items, from Pentagon spending cuts to breaking the GOP blockade on Guantanamo Bay.
Here are some of the highlights from each chamber:
The most notable changes for the majority are the losses of Lieberman, Webb, and Akaka.
Lieberman voted as a Democrat but backed hawkish Republican positions on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, military spending, and the detention of terrorism suspects, meaning his replacement on the committee is likely to be more liberal. Tim Kaine retained Webb’s seat for the Democrats by defeating George Allen, and it’s no stretch to think that the committee will want Virginia’s substantial defense interests represented on the panel again next Congress. Webb is chairman of the Personnel Subcommittee -- a post that could fall to Sen. Claire McCaskill, a committee member who won reelection and has built a reputation as a tough oversight manager of the Defense Department. She likely will continue to move up the ranks.
On the Republican side, Scott Brown lost his seat to Elizabeth Warren, leaving Massachusetts’ defense-heavy economy without representation on the committee unless the consumer advocate decides she wants to advocate for weapons purchases. More importantly, John McCain (AZ) must relinquish his position as ranking member due to term-limits. The Cable
’s Josh Rogin has reported that likely means Oklahoma conservative James Inhofe takes the seat
alongside Chairman Carl Levin (MI), creating a new dynamic that the Democrats will have to navigate.
Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, the 2nd-ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, lost his bid for an 11th term in Congress and his redrawn district seat. State Democrats did their gerrymandering best to remove the conservative firebrand, but they also lost a friend on some defense issues key to President Obama. Bartlett marches to his own beat, and to the chagrin of some committee members, he supported the administration’s efforts to use the Defense Department for developing alternative energy. He also chaired the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee, which oversees budget decisions on new Army ground and Marine Corps amphibious vehicles those services desperately want.
Republicans lost another subcommittee chairman in Todd Akin, the 5th-ranking member of the full committee, who gave up his seat in the House to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill. Akin lost and the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee he chaired is up for grabs. It should have an oversight role in how the Obama administration plans to lay down the forces of the Asian “pivot.”
It turns out Allen West, of Florida, wasn’t so safe after all. The brash-talking tea partier, who this year argued to Jewish voters that Obama’s campaign slogan “Forward” was “an old Soviet Union, Marxist-Socialist theme,” lost his South Florida seat to Patrick Murphy by about 2,500 votes. Florida’s 18th district is a gerrymandered wonder that hugs the coastline from Miami south toward the Keys. West held even in Dade County, which is heavy with minority voters, but he was trounced outside of the city. To be sure, West’s influence on the HASC was marginal and his public outbursts made him a bit of a caucus pariah. But he also was a veteran who backed robust defense spending.
Illinois’ Bobby Schilling lost his seat to Democrat Cheri Bustos in the competitive 11th district. Bustos is friends with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, and she had his strong endorsement. Bustos campaigned as a supporter for defense spending, according to local newspaper endorsements, citing federal spending’s importance in her district for, you guessed it, jobs.
Todd Russell Platts (PA) is retiring, but Republicans retained control of his seat with Scott Perry, a state representative.
The Democrats long ago knew they were losing their 2nd-ranking HASC member in Silvester Reyes of Texas. Reyes is going down in flames, losing his primary bid and still facing possible House ethics investigations over allegations that he funneled campaign cash to his family.
But Democrats lost a few other top names on the committee, as well.
In North Carolina, Rep. Larry Kissell was unseated by Richard Hudson, a Republican Hill staffer of former Rep. Robin Hayes, whom Kissell defeated two terms ago. And, in North Carolina, Democrats are barely holding onto Mike McIntyre’s lead over challenger David Rouzer, where a recount is called likely.
Democrats also lost a seat to redistricting when HASC member Rep. Mark Critz fell to Keith Rothfus in Pennsylvania’s 12th district. Critz was a staffer to John Murtha, the late HASC chairman. Rothfus is a former Department of Homeland Security lawyer. In Ohio, Betty Sutton was ousted in another redrawn districting case, losing her bid to fellow representative Jim Renacci. And in New York, Kathy Hochul, also lost her seat.