Texan expresses confidence he'll win Armed Services contest

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, Thursday said that he expects to be named the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee for the 112th Congress.

Reyes, who is now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, expressed confidence in a brief interview that he will be given the slot. He noted that based on seniority, he became next in line on the Armed Services panel after other Democratic lawmakers with longer tenure were wiped out in the midterm elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office would not confirm Reyes's claim. The formal selection of the committee's ranking Democrat has not yet been made by the House Democratic Caucus; indeed, the Democratic Steering Committee hasn't yet made its recommendation to the caucus.

Later in the day, Reyes' office made clear the Texas lawmaker was not overlooking the fact that there's a contest for the post. "With my seniority on the committee and my experience, I'm confident I can carry out duties of Ranking Member, and I am actively seeking the position," Reyes said in a subsequent statement issued by his office. "The selection process is still unfolding."

Also competing for the Armed Services slot is Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who now heads the Armed Services Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. Reyes technically has seniority over Smith, but does not chair an armed services subcommittee because of his position as the top Democrat on House Intelligence.

Smith is equally confident that he will get the ranking member slot, according to his spokesman, who said the Washington lawmaker has the same amount of seniority as Reyes does. "Both members have the exact same amount of seniority. They both joined HASC in 1997. So, this does not come down to seniority, it comes down to qualifications. Congressman Smith believes he is most qualified to be ranking member," the spokesman said.

The prospect of Reyes getting the lead role on Armed Services has created a complicated race for the ranking member position on Intelligence.

According to lawmakers and aides, the race to replace Reyes is between Intelligence Community Management Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.; Intelligence Technical and Tactical Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md.; and Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who does not head an Intelligence subcommittee, but chairs the Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee.

Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., has also been mentioned as a contender. Holt is a member of the committee but does not chair a subcommittee. Instead, he chairs the separate Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, which is under the House Appropriations Committee.

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