Battle for Senate spills into House panel

Battle for Senate spills into House panel

The battle for the Senate majority in 2016 is spilling over into the House Armed Services Committee.

Three members of the panel have announced Senate bids, and two more lawmakers are expected to launch their candidacies soon.

The presence of so many Senate hopefuls on one committee could cause friction, especially if members use the platform to attract media attention or highlight pet issues.

ADVERTISEMENT

One GOP aide expressed hope that the Senate ambitions of members won’t damage the bipartisan spirit of the committee. The aide noted panel members who run for higher office often point to their work on national security and the crucial defense policy bill.

“It doesn’t make sense to put that in jeopardy,” the aide told The Hill.

Still, the ranking Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithThe importance of intercontinental ballistic missiles to nuclear defense Trump team spurns Adam Smith with its trade stance Top Armed Services Republican: 'I don't think anybody is satisfied' with Space Force proposal MORE (Wash.), acknowledged campaign politics sometimes intrude on the committee’s work.

“I think we do a decent job of minimizing those political issues in Armed Services, but I’m not going to say they don’t show up,” Smith said.

“You run on the issues that are most on people’s minds at the time that you run. If the last six months of 2016 national security is a major issue, yeah, I suspect a lot of those members will try to point out what they did.”

Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said he wasn’t sure if the extra attention to the Senate candidates poses a “particular challenge, because we all have campaigns every two years.”

“But I have to say, I’m not happy at losing Joe Heck and others,” he added.

Here’s a look at the Armed Services Committee members running — and likely to run — for Senate.

REP. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-ILL.)

Duckworth, who lost both legs in 2004 when the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting in Iraq was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, is the best known of the panel’s Senate hopefuls.

She is challenging Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThe global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill MORE (R), a former Navy commander who is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country.

Democrats see Kirk’s seat as a prime pickup opportunity in 2016, given that Illinois has become a reliably blue state in presidential elections. But Kirk remains popular in the state, so the race could be tight.

Raising her visibility, Duckworth has taken the lead on legislation that would give service members greater protection from predatory lenders. She also successfully inserted several provision into the 2016 defense policy to boost oversight of the pricey F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and the Ground Combat Vehicle program.

REP. JOE HECK (R-NEV.)

Heck, a former physician and a one-star general in the Army Reserve who served in the Iraq War, is running for the seat being left open by retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSeven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary Senate buzzsaw awaits 2020 progressive proposals Sanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan MORE (D).

Nevada is another crucial Senate battleground, with Democrats hoping to hold onto the seat and go on offense against Republican incumbents in swing states.

Heck has a prominent role on the Armed Services Committee as chairman of the Military Personnel subpanel. In that position, he helped shepherd a proposal to revamp the military’s retirement system into the committee’s $612 billion defense policy bill.

Heck might also have an opportunity to oversee major reforms to Tricare, the military’s healthcare program, before Election Day.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D-CALIF.)

Sanchez surprised many on Capitol Hill in May when she announced a bid to replace retiring Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list MORE (D).

Her entry into the race sets up a potentially costly battle with California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), who is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party and is the prohibitive favorite.

But Sanchez has clout on Capitol Hill. As the top Democrat on the Tactical Air and Land Forces subpanel, has been responsible for overseeing many of the Defense Department’s biggest weapons programs, including the F-35.

She was also an early and strong advocate for expanding the role of women in the services and reforming military sexual assault procedures.

REP. JOHN FLEMING (R-LA.)

Fleming has said he will run for the Senate only if Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom Line Bottom Line Top 5 races to watch in 2019 MORE (R) wins his bid for Louisiana governor this fall.

To that end, Fleming has ratcheted up his fundraising in anticipation of a primary battle against Rep. Charles BoustanyCharles William BoustanyMarch tariff increase would cost 934K jobs, advocacy group says Bottom Line On The Money: US adds 155k jobs in November | Unemployment holds at 3.7 percent | Wage growth strengthening | Trump signs stopgap spending bill delaying shutdown MORE Jr. (R-La.), raising $741,000 in the second quarter of 2015, according to his campaign.

A member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Fleming has been a vocal advocate of protecting religious liberties in the armed forces.

REP. JEFF MILLER (R-FLA.)

Miller insists he has not made a decision about seeking the seat left open by Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDems plot aggressive post-Mueller moves, beginning with McGahn Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Cuban negotiator says Trump's efforts to destabilize Cuba's government will fail MORE (R), who is running for president.

However, two of his fellow lawmakers say Miller will run, adding that he has been traveling around the Sunshine State in anticipation of a bid.

Miller made headlines last year when he was wielding the gavel of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, taking a lead role in investigating the scandal over patient wait times at the Veterans Affairs Department.

The controversy roiled the Obama administration and forced VA chief Eric ShinsekiEric Ken ShinsekiSenate confirms Trump's VA pick despite opposition from some Dems Trump VA pick boosts hopes for reform Trump VA pick faces challenge to convince senators he’s ready for job MORE, a retired four-star general, to resign.

If he does run for the Senate, Miller could have an advantage in a state that has a heavy military footprint and a huge population of veterans.