Top Gun

Posted April 2, 2008 at 6:54pm

Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) officially kicked off his bid this week to become the next top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

In a letter Monday to his GOP colleagues, McHugh detailed his experience and leadership positions he has held on the panel over the past decade.

Ranking member Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), who is next in seniority behind Hunter, are retiring at the end of this Congress. McHugh is next in line for the top GOP slot.

“The Committee must be led by a person who understands that we are a nation at war against a determined enemy. Our military forces will need to recover, refurbish and grow to be fully prepared for future conflicts,” McHugh wrote. “For more than 15 years, I have worked to gain the experience necessary to help the Committee meet these vital challenges.”

[IMGCAP(1)]McHugh appears well-positioned to succeed Hunter in the next Congress. It is unclear if other Republicans will run for the Armed Services slot. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), who, like McHugh, was elected in 1992, has previously indicated interest in the job.

Head East, New Democrats. The New Democrat Coalition Political Action Committee will host its third annual retreat this weekend in Cambridge, Md.

The event, which includes Members, NDC-endorsed candidates and donors, will feature sessions on trade, health care and immigration as well as the 2008 elections and a candidate roundtable.

Stanford University history professor David Kennedy is scheduled to give a keynote address Saturday, titled “Can the United States Still Afford to be a Nation of Immigrants?,” according to a preliminary agenda.

“We wanted to focus on the economy … and immigration is one of the biggest economic issues out there,” said the NDC’s PAC chairman, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Award of a Lifetime. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was presented with a prestigious award last week by the president of South Africa in recognition of her advocacy for the country.

The award, known as the “Order of the Companion,” was presented to Waters on March 26 in a ceremony while she was visiting the country.

“I consider it one of the most important recognitions of my life,” she said in an interview.

Waters’ commitment to the country began in the 1980s when she organized rallies to protest apartheid and pushed the California Assembly to divest $12 billion from public pension funds invested in companies doing business with South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Since being elected to Congress, Waters has helped to reduce the debt of African countries by taking leadership roles in developing the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and by advocating G8 creditor nations to cancel the debts of the 20 poorest countries. Waters is working to pass legislation to expand existing debt cancellation programs and initiatives to help fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in developing countries like South Africa.

— Jennifer Yachnin, Lauren W. Whittington and Leah Carliner