House Fire

By Dan Dupont / November 3, 2010 at 2:10 PM

As expected, the Democratic leadership of the House Armed Services Committee took a beating last night, leaving way up in the air the question of what comes next. As Danger Room reports:

Take a last look at the membership list of the House committee. Longtime Democratic leader and outgoing chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri lost his seat. So did next-up John Spratt of South Carolina. So did next-up-next-up Solomon Ortiz of Texas (though a recount is possible). So did naval-subcommittee chairman Gene Taylor of Mississippi. So did Georgia's Jim Marshall, New Hampshire's Carol Shea-Porter, Virginia's Glenn Nye, Maryland's Frank Kratovil, Alabama's Bobby Bright and New York’s Scott Murphy. Three other Democrats retired from the committee -- one of them, Pennsylvania's Joe Sestak, lost a Senate race last night -- and things look tough for Washington's Rick Larsen as well.

So say hello to likely incoming chairman Buck McKeon of California. As we reported last month, McKeon's a big proponent of missile defense, a skeptic of the Obama administration's plan to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next July, and no great fan of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. One of his key allies, Virginia Republican Randy Forbes, has blasted the administration for neglect of the Navy and Air Force and general "lack of concern . . . for the men and women in uniform." Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plans to cut $100 billion in defense overhead in five years is going to get the fine-tooth-comb treatment from the committee. Expect hearings on all of these issues practically as soon as Speaker-in-Waiting John Boehner gavels the next Congress into session in January.

That's hardly the only upcoming fight. Next month, the Pentagon will complete a military study on repealing the ban on open gay service. Unless the Senate can pass a stalled defense bill during the lame-duck session before January, the ban will remain in place until Congress chucks it. Only now it faces much steeper chances in a GOP-run House: repeal of the ban only passed the House this year after Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania -- who, by the way, just lost his seat -- added it as an amendment to the House version of the defense bill, to much GOP criticism. Forbes, the incoming chairman of the readiness subcommittee, wants to get the results of the military study before considering an end to the ban. But even if the study finds no problems with repealing it, wide GOP House majorities make it unlikely to get through the chamber. (And the Senate isn't so hot on it either.)

More to come.