Howard Philip "Buck" McKeon (born September 9, 1938) is the U.S. Representative for California's 25th congressional district, serving since 1993. He is a member of the Republican Party.
Early life, education and career
Born in Tujunga, Los Angeles, California, McKeon graduated from Verdugo Hills High School in Tujunga. He spent two years as a Mormon missionary before enrolling at Brigham Young University. He later received his Bachelor of Science degree in animal husbandry in 1985, after previously putting his studies on hold to raise a family and establish his early business career. He has been the owner of a Western clothing shop since 1963 and has also served as the chairman of a small, regional bank.
McKeon gained his first political experience when he was elected to the William S. Hart Union High School District Board of Trustees.
Early political career
McKeon was a one-term mayor of Santa Clarita, being the first to hold that post after the city incorporated in 1987. He was also a member of the Santa Clarita City Council, a position he held until entering the House. McKeon touts his record as mayor because of the reputation that his city gained for being one of the safest in America. He also expanded Santa Clarita's park programs.
U.S. House of Representatives
In 2009, McKeon served as Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and Labor. In June, President Barack Obama nominated Representative John M. McHugh of New York, who was the Ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, as Secretary of the Army. On June 9, the House Republican leadership appointed McKeon as the Ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee. Under rules of the House of Representatives, McKeon was required to step down from his position as Ranking Member of the Education and Labor Committee, though he continues to serve on the committee.
McKeon is widely expected to be named chairman of the Committee on Armed Services in January, following the Republican takeover of the House in the November 2010 elections. As a member of the House, he has made education and defense issues two of his main priorities. He was greatly involved in the reform of the Student Loan Aid Program, which reduced interest rates but controversially increased federal control over education policy, such as teacher training. He also supports a strong national defense budget. Along with Dean Gallo of New Jersey, McKeon introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on March 11, 1993. McKeon is a member of the Republican Study Committee.
In 1992, the State of California gained seven additional seats through the reapportionment process which occurs every ten years following the census. A "new" 25th District was created in the Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys in north Los Angeles County and the communities of Chatsworth, Granada Hills, Northridge, and Porter Ranch in the northwestern San Fernando Valley. McKeon was thus the first congressman to represent the new district following its creation. In the 2002 reapportionment, the San Fernando Valley and portions of the Antelope Valley were removed from the 25th District while Inyo County, Mono County, and about half of the land area within San Bernardino County were added. The Los Angeles County portion of the district still includes the cities of Santa Clarita, Palmdale, and part of the city of Lancaster.
During the 2006 election cycle, McKeon received 60% of the vote in his district, defeating Democrat Robert Rodriguez and Libertarian David Erickson. The district has been considered to be "safe" for the Republican Party because it includes predominantly Republican areas in the Antelope and Santa Clarita Valleys and conservative rural areas of the High Sierras and desert regions of California. Changes in ethnic demographics in the district may make it less of a safe Republican district in the future, but the ever-popular McKeon handily won reelection with 58% of the vote in 2008, even though then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama received more votes than his Republican rival John McCain. McKeon’s campaigns have received the greatest financial support from the defense industry, especially aerospace companies such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing. Additionally, he is endorsed by the National Rifle Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the California Pro-Life Council.
McKeon is a social conservative. He is strongly pro-life, and is endorsed by the California Pro-Life Council. He strongly opposes amnesty for illegal aliens; he does “not support amnesty for those who have entered the country illegally,” and believes “that our country needs to remain focused on securing our borders and ports of entry”. Along with the Republican majority in the House, McKeon plans to “press for stronger enforcement measures, including: strengthening the border, imposing mandatory employment verification, ending birthright citizenship of immigrants' children and pressing for more Arizona-like state laws where people are asked for papers” He has supported national defense and security groups and the military extensively, but has an inconsistent voting record on supporting veterans. As the expected chairman of the Armed Services Committee, McKeon will have significant clout over the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the military regarding homosexuals; he “is trying to keep an open mind but does not support allowing gays to serve openly”. His opposition is mainly based on the timing of the issue. McKeon’s voting record shows that he has not supported the interests of many education groups; he consistently receives rankings in the lower half and failing grades from the National Educators Association.
McKeon serves as the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee. He is expected to serve as the committee chairman and as a leader during the Republican transition to power following the November 2010 elections. California’s 25th District holds several military locations, including Fort Irwin, Edwards Air Force Base, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, and the Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center. Although he has spoken strongly against Obama’s budgets and governmental support of the economy and has encouraged reducing spending, McKeon has opposed cutting the military budget, stating that “a defense budget in decline portends an America in decline”. McKeon is opposed to recent propositions to cut $100 billion from the defense budget, including contracts from Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Boeing, all companies that have financially supported his campaigns. In fact, Lockheed is the number one contributor to McKeon, "giving more than $50,000 in the most recent election cycle." However, it is important to provide proper context for that data, which -if standing alone- could unjustly imply McKeon is merely a proxy vote for the defense industry. Publishing donor information is a popular opposition tactic in the American political system, as it allows pundits to introduce the possibility of unethical behavior without actual proof. As such, the link between political donors and voting records is generally dubious, as Congress has strict ethics regulations, enforced by the FBI and Congressional committees. Nor is it uncommon for industries to target the campaigns of elected officials who serve on influential committees. For example, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, draws much of his campaign funding from energy and communications firms like Verizon and American Electric , while the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus, receives large donations from US banks and security firms, such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley. Further, Mr. McKeon has also been widely praised for his efforts to introduce transparency to the Armed Services Committee. In 2011, he held the first open markup for the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act, previously a process that was held in strict secrecy and went "above and beyond new House requirements," according to a statement from the Committee. In an unpredented step for a Congressional security committee, McKeon streamed the entire markup live on his website, and made the 2000 page defense bill available on the same site two days prior to the Committee's consideration of the legislation. McKeon's reforms drew praise from independent watchdog groups, such as the Sunlight Foundation, which -according its mission statement- advocates for greater government transparency. McKeon voted in favor of American military intervention Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Barack Obama's Afghanistan "surge" strategy, and has voted for increasing money and supplies to troops there. He has gone on record saying that withdrawal from Afghanistan should be conditions-based, and done with full consultation with senior military leadership. In a statement from May 2010, McKeon outlined his personal philosophy on the role of the United States and its military, calling for a return to “peace through strength” and Reagan-esque policies, including full financial and material support for the military in its current wars, keeping Guantanamo Bay open, and military posturing. In a speech before the Foreign Policy Initiative research group, McKeon called for massive increases in government spending on defense above Obama's budgets. He has also called on Congress to "embrace and build on" Robert Gates' plan to find $100 billion in savings in the defense budget. In 2011 McKeon organized a fundraiser for the "Lucky 13" Republican freshmen on the House Armed Services Committee to get contributions from defense contractor political action committees. He has also pushed to require the Marine Corps to engage in additional studies before they can move forwards on what Marine Corps Commandant James F. Amos has called a "critical amphibious and warfighting capability" to acquire a new amphibious tracked fighting vehicle. McKeon inserted into the 2012 National Defense Authorization Bill language that would grant the President of the United States unprecedented powers to wage war freely against persons abroad. Detractors, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times, have claimed that it could lead to “unending conflict” and an unchecked spread of the war on terrorism. Authorizing force against “associated forces” to Al Qaeda in the AUMF update have been criticized as so vague that it could unintentionally authorize attacks on Iran, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and others. However, the interpretation of the AUMF leading to unending war has been publicly rejected by bipartisan legal experts and major media sources. Benjamin Wittes, a fellow at the Brookings Institution said that criticisms of the AUMF language are “shrill and ill-informed, contain several gross factual errors and misleading statements, and–apparently without any awareness of what it is doing–suggest that the Obama administration believes it has the power to attack Iran under the AUMF.” McKeon said if forced to choose between tax increases and cuts to the Pentagon budget, he would choose tax increases.
McKeon is married to the former Patricia Kunz and has six children. They are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
September 14th, 2011