Leaving the House: Michigan's Ehlers and California's Watson

Thursday, February 11, 2010; A02

HOUSE

Two seats will be in contention

Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection in November, and Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) will do the same Thursday, according to an aide.

Ehlers became the 17th Republican to decide to make this term his last. His announcement came days after his wife, Johanna, suffered a heart attack, and one day after conservative state Rep. Justin Amash said he would challenge the eight-term veteran.

In the 2008 presidential race, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won by about 2,000 votes over Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in Ehlers's district, which is centered in Grand Rapids. The seat went strongly for George W. Bush, however, in 2004 (59 percent) and 2000 (60 percent).

Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has long eyed Ehlers's seat, some Michigan Republicans say. She is running for lieutenant governor on a ticket led by Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

Watson -- who, like Ehlers, is 76 -- is the 13th House Democrat to decide against seeking reelection this cycle. She did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. An aide said Watson would announce her impending retirement Thursday in her suburban Los Angeles district.

The district is heavily Democratic, having given Obama 87 percent of the vote in 2008. Watson has been reelected by huge margins since she first took the seat in a 2001 special election.

The Los Angeles Times reported that state Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D) is expected to announce that she will run for Watson's seat.

-- Chris Cillizza and Ben Pershing

SENATE

Mo.'s Bond wants security adviser out

Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called this week for the ouster of President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, calling him no longer "credible" on national security matters.

Brennan's recent "troubling decisions have destroyed my confidence in him," Bond said Tuesday in an interview with National Review Online.

"It is hard to trust anyone in the White House right now," Bond said in the interview. "The national-security team has become a bench of political spokespeople."

The senator's comments came hours after USA Today published an opinion article by Brennan, in which the former CIA veteran stated that "politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda."

Brennan did not mention the Republican Party or the GOP senators who have criticized Obama's decisions on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who allegedly tried to bomb a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.

But he did not mince words in defending the White House decision to charge Abdulmutallab as a civilian rather than as an "enemy combatant," saying that for interrogation purposes, there was little distinction between the two.

The White House has been aggressively seeking to counter GOP assertions that it missed an opportunity to gain valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda in Yemen by reading the suspect his Miranda rights. Abdulmutallab trained in Yemen, where he received a sophisticated explosive device that he hid beneath his clothes for the flight.

Bond, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has made that claim several times -- even after, the White House says it told him that Abdulmutallab was divulging important information to interrogators after his family was brought in from Nigeria to encourage him to do so.

-- Scott Wilson

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