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New HASC Oversight Chair Shatters GOP Old Boys Club Look

Posted by Colin Clark on



CAPITOL HILL: Martha Roby is not a guy, but she is a Republican — and now, the chair of the most politically charged panel of the biggest committee in the Congress.

Roby is not the only House GOP woman in a leadership position. One woman holds a full committee chairmanship in the GOP House. Rep. Candice Mill of Michigan leads the House Administration Committee. She was named to that post three days after the Huffington Post ran a story noting only white men had been named to committee chairs. Now the GOP-led HASC has a GOP woman in a top position.

Those things are all worthy of note. The Republican ranks of the House Armed Services Committee for the last few years have boasted relatively few women. Two were added to the ranks after the November elections, doubling the number of GOP women on the HASC. To get some idea as to just how far up the chain Roby has jumped, she would appear to have catapulted almost 20 spots up the seniority ladder. That bears all the hallmarks of a political decision by chairman Buck McKeon, since seniority usually weighs very heavily on the scales when subcommittee chairs are picked. But wait! It turns out this is more a function of Republican conference rules which bar House GOP members from holding more than one chairmanship, according to a Hill source.

So what really happened is that Rep. Roby was one of the only people eligible to be granted a chairmanship. “The chairman has always looked at the Oversight and Investigation chairman as a way to enfranchise more junior members of the committee,” the Hill source said, adding carefully that “Mrs. Roby had distinguished herself” during her two-some years on the HASC. Among the highlights of her service on the HASC, as described on her House website was this activity during the National Defense Authorization Act conference:

“Rep. Roby played a key role in crafting language in the bill to ensure that the Air Force gives a transparent accounting for costs savings from planned resource relocations. She worked alongside Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) to insist on such an accounting when the Air Force released a plan removing C-130 aircraft from Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery. That plan has since been revised to keep the current seven C-130 aircraft at Maxwell with the possibility of adding an eighth aircraft.”

If you want a guide to some of the defense interests Roby is likely to protect, they are detailed nicely on her website:

“Fort Rucker, Maxwell Air Force Base and the Gunter Annex and the 187th Fighter Wing are all located in the district. Fort Rucker, in Dale County, is the Home of Army Aviation and the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence. Maxwell Air Force Base, in Montgomery, serves as the headquarters of Air University (AU), a major component of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), and is the U.S. Air Force’s center for Joint Professional Military Education (PME). Also located in Montgomery is the host wing for Maxwell-Gunter, the 42d Air Base Wing (42 ABW), and the 908th Airlift Wing (908 AW).”

Of course, oversight subcommittees in the House are famously used to spotlight politically sensitive issues of interest to the prevailing party. The HASC version is usually the least “bipartisan” of its subcommittees. Let’s hope for some hope for some activity of interest from this relatively young and fresh –and not male — lawmaker.

Edited 5:20 pm

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