Clapper: Al-Qaida Is ‘Morphing, Franchising Itself’

Megan Scully
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Megan Scully
Feb. 11, 2014, 10 a.m.

With House Armed Ser­vices Chair­man Ike Skelton fa­cing a tough re-elec­tion chal­lenge in his west­ern Mis­souri dis­trict, spec­u­la­tion is mount­ing about who would lead Demo­crats on the com­mit­tee if the 17-term law­maker loses his seat in Novem­ber.

Com­plic­at­ing mat­ters is un­cer­tainty over wheth­er Demo­crats will be able to main­tain their ma­jor­ity in the House — and what a change in power would mean for both de­fense spend­ing and Pentagon policy.

With re­tire­ments and close races ex­pec­ted to change the makeup of all four con­gres­sion­al de­fense pan­els, the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee lead­er­ship — par­tic­u­larly among Demo­crats — ap­pears to be the biggest ques­tion mark lead­ing up to the midterm elec­tions.

If Skelton were to lose his re-elec­tion, Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., the second most seni­or Demo­crat on the com­mit­tee, is next in line for the gavel. But Spratt’s as­cend­ancy in the wake of a Skelton loss is far from guar­an­teed as the 14-term law­maker faces a dif­fi­cult race of his own.

But if Spratt were giv­en the op­por­tun­ity to lead Demo­crats on Armed Ser­vices, he would have to give up his gavel on the Budget Com­mit­tee — likely a dif­fi­cult de­cision for the vet­er­an num­bers-crunch­er.

For its part, the Armed Ser­vices chair­man’s of­fice is ex­press­ing con­fid­ence in Skelton’s re-elec­tion bid, as well as Demo­crats’ chances of keep­ing a ma­jor­ity in the next Con­gress.

“We don’t an­ti­cip­ate a change in the ma­jor­ity, and we ex­pect Chair­man Skelton to be back next year to con­tin­ue all of his great work for our mil­it­ary and na­tion­al se­cur­ity,” a com­mit­tee spokes­wo­man said.

The com­mit­tee is not mak­ing any con­tin­gency plans, nor have any pan­el mem­bers be­gun pub­licly jock­ey­ing for the chair­man­ship should Skelton lose, aides said. But at least some in­form­al chat­ter is emer­ging over what hap­pens if Skelton loses and if Re­pub­lic­ans take the House.

After Spratt, Armed Ser­vices Read­i­ness Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man So­lomon Ort­iz, D-Texas, is next in seni­or­ity and, ac­cord­ing to House aides, would be a non­con­tro­ver­sial pick to lead Demo­crats on the com­mit­tee.

Ort­iz’s fo­cus over the last sev­er­al years has been the read­i­ness of the heav­ily de­ployed U.S. com­bat forces, as well as on mil­it­ary con­struc­tion — areas that cus­tom­ar­ily have the mu­tu­al sup­port of Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats and are rarely con­ten­tious.

Wheth­er it is Skelton, Spratt or Ort­iz who holds the Demo­crats’ top spot on the com­mit­tee in the 112th Con­gress, the type of lead­er­ship on the typ­ic­ally bi­par­tis­an pan­el would re­main un­changed.

There are a “cer­tain amount of old guard guys who are very bi­par­tis­an [and have a] nice gen­tle­manly ap­proach to things,” said a House Demo­crat­ic aide. “I don’t see big style changes.”

After Ort­iz in seni­or­ity is Seapower and Ex­ped­i­tion­ary Forces Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Gene Taylor, D-Miss., an un­waver­ing pro-de­fense Blue Dog who of­ten sides with House Re­pub­lic­ans on key votes — a fact that doesn’t help his chances of tak­ing over the power­ful com­mit­tee.

An­oth­er seni­or mem­ber of the Armed Ser­vices pan­el is House In­tel­li­gence Chair­man Sil­vestre Reyes, who is close with House Speak­er Pelosi. But it is un­clear wheth­er the Texas law­maker would give up one chair­man­ship for an­oth­er, or wheth­er he would be asked by lead­er­ship to do so.

A dark-horse can­did­ate for the top Demo­crat slot, should he choose to pur­sue it, could be Air and Land Forces Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Smith of Wash­ing­ton, who is viewed by mem­bers and staff as a rising star on the com­mit­tee. Last year, Smith took over the sub­com­mit­tee, which over­sees Army and Air Force pro­grams and is ar­gu­ably one of the com­mit­tee’s most im­port­ant.

But to se­lect Smith for the post, Demo­crats would have to pass over both Ort­iz and Taylor and risk an­ger­ing both the His­pan­ic Caucus and Blue Dogs — two groups that lead­er­ship par­tic­u­larly would need sup­port from if the Demo­crats’ ma­jor­ity dwindled to only a few votes.

Across the aisle, Armed Ser­vices rank­ing mem­ber Howard (Buck) McK­eon, R-Cal­if., would likely hold his spot as the top Re­pub­lic­an on the pan­el wheth­er the GOP takes the ma­jor­ity of the House or not.

But Rep. Mac Thorn­berry, R-Texas, the third most seni­or Re­pub­lic­an on the pan­el, put up a for­mid­able chal­lenge dur­ing the cam­paign for the rank­ing mem­ber slot last year, and he could do so again in a new Con­gress.

If Re­pub­lic­ans win in Novem­ber, “McK­eon is go­ing to make every ef­fort to be chair­man,” said a House GOP aide. But the aide stressed that com­mit­tee Re­pub­lic­ans are not “count­ing their eggs be­fore they hatch.”

As the ma­jor­ity, the party would gain sev­er­al new seats on the com­mit­tee, but those gains will not be de­cided un­til after the elec­tion. There could also be some shuff­ling of sub­com­mit­tee lead­ers, but the GOP aide said McK­eon “has great con­fid­ence” in the cur­rent Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship on the com­mit­tee.

Mean­while, Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices lead­er­ship — with Sen. Carl Lev­in, Mich., the top Demo­crat, and Sen. John Mc­Cain, Ar­iz., the top Re­pub­lic­an — would likely go un­changed in the next Con­gress, par­tic­u­larly now that it looks like Demo­crats will main­tain at least a nar­row ma­jor­ity in the cham­ber.

And des­pite a lot of turnover on the Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee, Chair­man Daniel In­ouye and rank­ing mem­ber Thad Co­chran — who also serve as the lead­ers of the De­fense Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee — are ex­pec­ted to keep their posts.

But there could be some changes in the makeup of the House De­fense Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee, re­gard­less of which party is in power.

For one thing, De­fense Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Norm Dicks, D-Wash., is seek­ing to be­come chair­man of the full com­mit­tee and in­tends to keep his hand at the helm of the de­fense pan­el as well. But while Demo­crat­ic chair­men have tra­di­tion­ally been al­lowed to also keep an ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee, sources said lead­er­ship may not al­low that prac­tice to con­tin­ue next year.

On the Re­pub­lic­an side, De­fense Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber C.W. (Bill) Young, R-Fla., will reach the end of his six-year term lim­it at the end of this Con­gress. He could, however, seek a waiver from the steer­ing com­mit­tee to ex­tend his ten­ure as the sub­com­mit­tee’s top Re­pub­lic­an.

Should con­trol of either cham­ber switch after the elec­tion, the de­fense pan­els, whose is­sues tend to fall more of­ten along pa­ro­chi­al lines than par­tis­an ones, would not ex­per­i­ence a seis­mic shift.

But Re­pub­lic­ans, who have raised con­cerns that pro­jec­ted an­nu­al in­creases to de­fense spend­ing are get­ting smal­ler, could use their ma­jor­ity status to try to fat­ten the Pentagon budget, or at least match the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­quest. This year, House ap­pro­pri­at­ors trimmed $7 bil­lion from the FY11 re­quest, while Sen­ate ap­pro­pri­at­ors cut $8.1 bil­lion from the base budget.

Re­gard­less of which party is in power, “it’s only go­ing to get bet­ter from [out­go­ing House Ap­pro­pri­ations Chair­man Dav­id] Obey, who is not a big fan of the de­fense bill and would hap­pily raid it for all he could,” a former Ap­pro­pri­ations aide said.

A Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­ity could also clash with the ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats on some policy is­sues, in­clud­ing the fate of the U.S. mil­it­ary’s de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity in Guantanamo, Cuba, and the sus­pec­ted ter­ror­ists it holds and the im­ple­ment­a­tion of an an­ti­cip­ated re­peal of the 1993 law ban­ning openly gay in­di­vidu­als from serving in the mil­it­ary.

There could also be some struc­tur­al changes to the com­mit­tees. For in­stance, House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Re­pub­lic­ans could move to ab­ol­ish the over­sight and in­vest­ig­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee that Skelton cre­ated when he as­sumed his chair­man­ship in 2007. Re­pub­lic­ans ab­ol­ished the sub­com­mit­tee in 1995.

What We're Following See More »
WILL THE DINNER HAPPEN?
Trump To Skip Correspondents Dinner
30 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump announced in a tweet on Saturday that he would not attend the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in April. The move did not come as a surprise, another moment in his ongoing battle with the media, which he has dubbed the "enemy" of the American people and repeatedly refers to as "fake news." Multiple outlets have already cancelled their events surrounding the dinner and several are considering skipping the event outright.

FOLLOWS ARMY SECRETARY
Navy Secretary Nominee To Withdraw
30 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

Phillip Bilden, Donald Trump's nominee for Navy secretary, has decided to withdraw his nomination after he was unable to sufficiently untangle his financial commitments. Bilden follows Vincent Viola, who withdrew his nomination for Army secretary.

Source:
FBI TURNED DOWN REQUEST
Report: Trump Asked FBI to Deny Russia Stories
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many Signatures Has the Petition for Trump’s Tax Returns Received?
3 days ago
THE ANSWER

More than 1 million, setting a record. More than 100,000 signatures triggers an official White House response.

Source:
TIED TO RUSSIA INVESTIGATION
Sen. Collins Open to Subpoena of Trump’s Tax Returns
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Sen. Susan Collins, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, "said on Wednesday she's open to using a subpoena to investigate President Donald Trump's tax returns for potential connections to Russia." She said the committee is also open to subpoenaing Trump himself. "This is a counter-intelligence operation in many ways," she said of Russia's interference. "That's what our committee specializes in. We are used to probing in depth in this area."

Source:
×
×

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.

Login