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Key HASC Members Face Election Night Losses

Oct. 30, 2012 - 01:50PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
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The U.S. House Armed Services Committee (HASC) could soon lose some familiar faces, and several members’ races should provide clues early on election night about which party will control Washington.

A major question for the Nov. 6 elections is how much larger the GOP’s edge in the House will become. Most political pundits believe the Republican Party will grow its majority of 242 seats, with Democrats losing some of their 193 seats.

The outcome of congressional efforts to avoid potential cuts to planned defense spending will depend, in part, on the results of congressional races across the country.

“The cloud bank of the election,” said Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, “is blocking any visibility of a possible deal.”

Several defense sector congressional allies are fighting for their political lives, and the fate of a few Democratic committee members could foretell how that party does in key swing states on election night.

Here are a handful of races involving HASC members that could dramatically change the committee, while having big implications for the lower chamber of Congress:

• Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. After almost two decades in the House, Bartlett finds himself in political trouble. In fact, projects his Democratic foe, John Delaney, likely will oust the 19-year House member.

Bartlett steadily climbed the HASC ranks, becoming one of the panel’s senior Republicans. After an unsuccessful bid in 2010 to become chairman, he headed the tactical air and land forces subcommittee.

If the polls pan out, one longtime Washington defense analyst said the HASC would lose one of its most technically knowledgeable members. And, for a panel chartered to oversee policies on the development of weapon systems, which are more and more technologically advanced, that could be a big loss.

“Bartlett is one of the very few House members with a background in technology, having been awarded 20 patents while serving as a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University and IBM,” said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. “This has given him unusual influence over deliberations on technology issues, such as the naval nuclear propulsion program. If he were to depart, the HASC would lose an important player in science and technology.”

• Rep. Allen West, R-Fla. West came into office in 2010 as a darling of the tea party movement, which led to a Republican romp in the midterm elections.

An Iraq war veteran and retired Army officer, West called for major cuts in government spending, which had some in Washington talking of big things for the Floridian.

He quickly became one of Capitol Hill’s most vocal critics of President Barack Obama.

West has been widely chided for his more incendiary remarks about Obama. In January, he was slammed for, during public remarks, telling Obama and liberals to “get the hell out of the United States of America.” And in April, West told attendees at a fundraiser that “about 78 or 81 members of the Democrat Party are members of the Communist Party.”

Still, the GOP would lose an attack dog who hails from a key swing state. And in these partisan times, every party leader needs a few attack dogs.

But West’s outspoken conservative approach appears to be wearing thin on some voters. An Oct. 17 Sunshine State News/VSS poll showed him with a 1-percentage-point lead over Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.

• Democratic Reps. Mark Critz, Pa.; Larry Kissell, N.C.; Mike McIntyre, N.C. The fates of these three on Nov. 6 should offer clues into how both parties are doing across the nation. After all, Kissell and McIntyre hail from a tier-one swing state, and some pundits say Critz’s Pennsylvania is neither solidly red nor blue.

For the HASC, losing Democratic members could continue a recent trend that has begun injecting the once-bipartisan panel with the same brand of partisanship that has overtaken most of Washington.

More broadly, if Critz, Kissell and McIntyre all lose to their GOP challengers, it likely means that Republicans will substantially increase their majority in the House. lists Critz’s and McIntyre’s races in the tossup column, while the organization projects Kissell likely will be defeated by his GOP foe.

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