Republicans Say Default Wouldn’t Be So Bad

National Journal
Megan Scully
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Megan Scully
Oct. 8, 2013, 6 p.m.

Up­dated at 4:50 p.m. on Novem­ber 3, 2010. In what some have called a “dooms­day scen­ario,” voters have ous­ted the most seni­or Demo­crats on the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee in a ma­jor house­clean­ing that will dra­mat­ic­ally re­shape the struc­ture of the power­ful pan­el.

Chair­man Ike Skelton of Mis­souri, Rep. John Spratt of South Car­o­lina and Seapower Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Gene Taylor of Mis­sis­sippi — the first, second and fourth most seni­or Demo­crats on the com­mit­tee — were all de­feated Tues­day.

It also ap­pears that the No. 3 Demo­crat, Read­i­ness Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man So­lomon Ort­iz, lost his race by about 800 votes. But the 14-term Demo­crat, who has long had a strong­hold on his south­ern Texas dis­trict, has not yet con­ceded.

These old stal­warts have been a fix­ture in the top row of the Armed Ser­vices hear­ing room for a dec­ade and have served as power­ful, mod­er­ate voices on a com­mit­tee that prides it­self on bi­par­tis­an ac­tion.

Their losses will ush­er in a new class of seni­or Demo­crats on the pan­el at a crit­ic­al time for the war in Afgh­anistan and for the Pentagon budget, both of which will re­ceive in­tense scru­tiny from law­makers over the next sev­er­al months.

Ort­iz had long been thought to be the most likely and lo­gic­al suc­cessor to Skelton. But if he loses reelec­tion, it will open a race for rank­ing mem­ber of the full com­mit­tee.

One pos­sib­il­ity, a Demo­crat­ic source said, is House In­tel­li­gence Chair­man Sil­vestre Reyes, D-Texas. Reyes’s can­did­acy will hinge on the fi­nal out­come of Ort­iz’s race, as two Texas Demo­crats in the His­pan­ic Caucus would be un­likely to battle pub­licly for the same post.

Reyes also could bring with him some of his staff on the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, which would res­ult in sig­ni­fic­ant job-shuff­ling with­in the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, the source said. After Demo­crats took con­trol of Con­gress in 2006, the com­mit­tee re­tained much of its staff des­pite the switch in party con­trol.

In a sig­ni­fic­ant shift from Skelton’s lead­er­ship, Reyes as rank­ing mem­ber could be a huge boon for the Army on a com­mit­tee that has long been skep­tic­al of that ser­vice’s ef­forts to mod­ern­ize its equip­ment and has of­ten led ef­forts to slash fund­ing for its key pro­grams.

Reyes’s dis­trict in­cludes Fort Bliss, the Army base where the ser­vice has tested many of its new­est tech­no­lo­gies. In May, the sev­en-term Demo­crat suc­cess­fully fought to re­store more than $100 mil­lion in cuts the com­mit­tee made to sev­er­al tech­no­lo­gies the ser­vice is sal­va­ging from the can­celed Fu­ture Com­bat Sys­tems pro­gram.

His spokes­man, Vin­cent Perez, de­clined to dis­cuss the law­maker’s op­tions. “At this point, it’s pre­ma­ture to spec­u­late about fu­ture lead­er­ship roles,” Perez said in an e-mail to Na­tion­al Journ­al. “Con­gress­man Ort­iz’s race has not been called yet, and Chair­man Reyes is hope­ful his good friend will re­turn for an­oth­er term.”

Reyes may not be the only Demo­crat with eyes for the party’s top slot on the com­mit­tee.

Air and Land Forces Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Smith, D-Wash., would be next in seni­or­ity after Reyes and is con­sidered by both parties to be a rising star on the com­mit­tee. Smith’s race has not been called yet, but he is ahead. If Reyes is in­ter­ested in the post, however, it would be dif­fi­cult for Demo­crats to jump over a more seni­or His­pan­ic mem­ber to choose Smith for the job.

One Demo­crat­ic aide said there have been rum­blings that Rep. Rob An­drews, D-N.J., could at­tempt to leapfrog sev­er­al oth­er mem­bers to claim Skelton’s old job. An­drews is in charge of the com­mit­tee’s ac­quis­i­tion re­form pan­el and has be­come a stronger voice on the com­mit­tee in re­cent years.

If An­drews were to be­come rank­ing mem­ber, he could “ham­mer the Re­pub­lic­ans but do it in a bi­par­tis­an way,” the aide said.

An­drews is clearly am­bi­tious. In 2008, he un­suc­cess­fully chal­lenged in­cum­bent Sen. Frank Lauten­berg, D-N.J., in a di­vis­ive primary.

“If his­tory is any in­dic­a­tion, he does not shy from a chal­lenge,” the aide said.

As Demo­crats weigh who will lead them on the com­mit­tee in the next Con­gress, the shake-up for the com­mit­tee’s mem­ber­ship did not stop at the top row. Sev­er­al oth­er Demo­crat­ic in­cum­bents — in­clud­ing Glenn Nye of Vir­gin­ia, Jim Mar­shall of Geor­gia, and Car­ol Shea-Port­er of New Hamp­shire — also lost reelec­tion.

Re­pub­lic­ans will con­trol the gavel in the next Con­gress, but the in­flux of a new class of Demo­crats on the com­mit­tee could prove chal­len­ging.

“It doesn’t be­ne­fit us if there’s that much turnover” be­cause it re­places Demo­crats on the com­mit­tee Re­pub­lic­ans have good re­la­tion­ships with, a GOP source said.

Who re­places them will be the ques­tion many in the Pentagon, the de­fense in­dustry and Cap­it­ol Hill will be ask­ing today and in the weeks to come.



What We're Following See More »
Tying Republicans to Trump Now an Actionable Offense
40 minutes ago

"Some Republicans are running so far away from their party’s nominee that they are threatening to sue TV stations for running ads that suggest they support Donald Trump. Just two weeks before Election Day, five Republicans―Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), David Jolly (R-Fla.), John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican running for an open seat that’s currently occupied by his brother―contend that certain commercials paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee provide false or misleading information by connecting them to the GOP nominee. Trump is so terrible, these Republicans are essentially arguing, that tying them to him amounts to defamation."

Former Congressman Schock Fined $10,000
50 minutes ago

Former Illinois GOP Congressman Aaron Schock "recently agreed to pay a $10,000 fine for making an excessive solicitation for a super PAC that was active in his home state of Illinois four years ago." Schock resigned from Congress after a story about his Downton Abbey-themed congressional office raised questions about how he was using taxpayer dollars.

Clinton Reaching Out to GOP Senators
2 hours ago

If you need a marker for how confident Hillary Clinton is at this point of the race, here's one: CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports "she's been talking to Republican senators, old allies and new, saying that she is willing to work with them and govern."

Filipino President Duterte Threatens to Expel U.S. Troops
2 hours ago

On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines threatened to kick U.S. troops out of the country, adding that if he remains president for more than one term he will move to terminate all military deals with America. Last week, Duterte called for a separation between the two countries, though other government officials immediately said he did not mean that literally.

Trump Admits He’s Behind
2 hours ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.