A longtime Republican leader on defense issues is preparing to retire.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, is a former chair of the House Armed Services Committee and currently serves as ranking Republican. He has been known for reaching across the aisle while serving on the HASC, ensuring the committee avoided party politics and presented a generally united front on defense issues.
Thornberry’s legislative career ends after 26 years. He was first elected in 1994 and was the first Texan to chair the HASC, leading the committee from 2015 to 2019.
In recent years, Thornberry has made readiness his top priority, pushing for larger defense budgets to help the military prepare for great power competition and future fights.
Those efforts are among those he is most proud of, the congressman told Fox News in an interview that aired late last month.
“I’m often asked, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ … It’s no foreign threats that worry me… The one thing we can’t handle is if we self-destruct,” Thornberry said. “That’s the thing that worries me the most … what we might do to ourselves.”
Thornberry did not seek reelection this year. With him not on the ballot, former White House doctor and retired Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson won election to Thornberry’s 13th Congressional District.
Republicans have selected Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., to succeeded Thornberry as the HASC’s ranking GOP member.
Thornberry said in a statement that Rogers is “a great choice” to replace him due to his advocacy for the military and experience dealing with national defense issues.
Thornberry was an early proponent of space and cyber security. Looking back on his career, he stressed the importance of the defense budget and warned the nation could easily lose any readiness it has bought back in recent years.
“It has improved,” he said. “We could go backwards, unfortunately.”
Thornberry’s portrait will hang in the HASC’s main hearing room. The background of the painting will include hand-chosen books which the outgoing congressman said he hopes will remind future members of the committee to keep learning.
When asked if there was room in today’s Congress for a legislator known for working across the aisle, Thornberry said he hoped that would become more common.
“I think most people in the country want problem-solvers. They want people who will roll up their sleeves to get things done, not worry so much about celebrity, notoriety or credit,” he said. “I hope and I kind of think we’re starting to swing back that direction.”