In a move that both strengthens his bipartisan reputation and could pull a Republican out of Congress, President Barack Obama has nominated Republican Rep. John McHugh as secretary of the Army.
"He hasn't agreed with every decision my administration has made," the president said this morning. "But he brings patriotism and a pragmatism that has won him respect on both sides of the aisle."
McHugh, who has represented upstate New York in Congress since 1993, is known as a moderate Republican with a solid background in military affairs. He's currently the House Armed Services Committee's top Republican, and he has served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. One of his priorities has been to expand northern New York's Fort Drum, home to the Army's 10th Mountain Division, a base that some in Washington would like to see shut down to save money.
McHugh's departure from Congress could leave a slot open for a Democrat. Right now, McHugh is one of the few GOP members left in the Northeast. And he's seemingly kept his seat secure with little sweat: His share of 63 percent of the vote in 2006 made that election the closest one he's had since he was first elected in 1992. Still, most say it's likely that a special election would result in a GOP win.
McHugh's nomination would make him the third Republican to be in the top ranks of the Obama administration, alongside Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Another Republican, Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah, has been nominated to be ambassador to China. And another attempt to add a GOP voice to the table fell apart in February when New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg reversed his acceptance of the nomination to be secretary of commerce.
"The fact of the matter is I'm nothing more than the latest in a growing line of individuals of many different backgrounds, many different life experiences—as my nomination suggests, different political persuasions—who have been provided by President Obama the chance to heed, to answer, new, important, and challenging problems," McHugh said as he accepted Obama's nomination today.