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McKeon Wins Top GOP Armed Services Slot, Will Vacate Education Post

By Ben Pershing
Rep. Buck McKeon (Calif.) won the Republican Steering Committee's nod today to fill the top GOP slot on the Armed Services Committee, clearing the way for him to succeed Rep. John McHugh (N.Y.) in the post. He also will vacate the same position on the Education and the Workforce panel.

McKeon had been engaged in a three-way race against Reps. Mac Thornberry (Texas) and Roscoe Bartlett (Md.) since President Obama made the surprise announcement last week that he would nominate McHugh to be secretary of the Army. McKeon, a close ally of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), prevailed today even though Bartlett has more seniority on the panel and Thornberry has been more closely identified with military issues. McKeon's win now must be ratified by the full House GOP Conference, but that step is basically a formality.

McKeon's win means he will leave his current post as the top Republican on the Education panel. The field to replace him there is seen as wide open, and Republican leadership aides say there is no obvious successor in place. The current No. 2 Republican, Rep. Tom Petri (Wis.), failed in a bid for the job back in 2000, but did not run again the last time the slot was vacant. Further down the Education roster, Rep. John Kline (Minn.) is also seen as a possible candidate, though he would have to vault over several more senior Republicans to win the job.

Moderate Rep. Mike Castle (Del.) is seen as an attractive candidate for the Education post in some quarters, mainly because he has been considering retiring from the House and his seat would likely be gobbled up by a Democrat if he did. But Castle has also been mulling a run for Vice President Biden's former Senate seat in 2010, possibly against Biden's son, Beau Biden (D). Castle is viewed as the GOP's strongest contender for that job -- an April poll showed him beating the younger Biden by 21 points -- so Senate Republican strategists presumably hope he passes on the Education post.

By Ben Pershing  |  June 9, 2009; 3:46 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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