In an emotional speech, tough-guy Rep. Buck McKeon announced his retirement Thursday, saying partisan gridlock and term limits are behind his decision to not seek re-election to a 12th term to the House, where he is chairman of one of the Hill's most powerful committees.
"What you have is a real problem in trying to get things together, in trying to get things to happen," the House Armed Services Committee chairman said in a news conference Thursday, reports Politico,
complaining that both Republicans and Democrats alike have shifted toward extremes in the past few years.
McKeon, a California Republican, spoke in a rebuke of some Republicans' calls for cuts to federal spending at the expense of the military, and vowed that he would keep fighting against reductions in Pentagon spending.
But aside from the partisan gridlock, McKeon said that term limits are "the biggest motivator" in his decision to not seek re-election. He would not have been able to stay on as Armed Services chairman, and said he doesn't "want to be around here second guessing a chairman."
"I just don't want to do that," McKeon said. "And I don't want people making comparisons."
McKeon, holding his news conference in the House Armed Services Committee hearing room, endorsed the committee's vice chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, for the committee’s chairmanship.
"I think that he will run for the job as chairman, and I think he will win the job as chairman, and I think he will be an outstanding chairman," McKeon said, noting it will be up to GOP leaders to decide on the post should Republicans keep control of the House.
But there are other senior Republicans eying the top spot, including Rep. Randy Forbes, of Virginia, the chairman of the Seapower and Projection Subcommittee, and Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, who heads the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee.
McKeon's decision has been expected for some time, but the 75-year-old made the decision official on Thursday after informing fellow Republicans on the Armed Services committee earlier in the day of his decision.
Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the committee, praised McKeon's leadership, saying he "set a tone on this committee that the rest of Congress should seek to emulate. As political tension continued to rise in Congress, Buck stayed committed to bipartisanship.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Carl Levin, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, also does not plan
to seek re-election. The 78-year-old Michigan Democrat said in May that he wanted to focus on the chairmanship and serving his constituents without the distractions of running yet another campaign.
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