Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, a Californian who votes with his party about 95 percent of the time, won the nod from GOP elders to lead the party in one of its most important committees, the House Armed Services Committee.
McKeon beat out the thoughtful and creative Mac Thornberry, who also sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, a scientist and top GOP member on the HASC air and land subcommittee.
Several party observers said they thought McKeon would help maintain the Republican Party's influence on the committee. One aide, who had been bucking for McKeon, said "he's sharp and articulate and a solid GOPer."
McKeon gave truth to the GOP moniker with his first statement on learning of his new role as ranking member of the HASC: "I will also work with my Republican colleagues to make certain our priorities are addressed, which include restoring funding for missile defense, reaching a resolution to keep Guantanamo terrorist detainees off U.S. soil, and maintaining our military superiority for today’s needs and tomorrow’s threats."
He also referenced something that close observers of the committee will be closely watching: how he handles the next two weeks as the committee marks up this year's defense authorization bill.
McKeone founded the Congressional Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus and belongs to the Missile Defense and House Aerospace caucuses. His California district hosts seven major military installations, including Fort Irwin, home of the National Training Center, Edwards Air Force Base, and Air Force Plant 42.