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Rep. McKeon makes it official: He's retiring at end of term

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., Thursday confirmed days of speculation that he would retire at the end of his current term.

McKeon said during a news conference there were "indicators" that it was "time to walk away."

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"I'm announcing that I am not a candidate for Congress this year," he said. "But, I will continue to finish my term; I will be chairman this last year of the House Armed Services Committee."

He thanked the voters of California's 25th Congressional District who elected him every two years since he took office in 1993.

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"I guess I can question their judgment, but I thank them for the support and for letting me serve in this great position, where I've learned so much and seen so much," McKeon, 75, said.

He said he would still speak out for funding and training for the U.S. military.

"Serving our military men and women has been the great highlight of my career in Congress," McKeon said. "Their fight is my fight. Every day I do my best to faithfully do my duty to them and to our country."

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He said his committee also would be busy this year, including visits to world leaders.

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"We're going to let our allies know that we haven't forgotten them," McKeon, 75, said, "and we're going to visit the troops around the world."

One of the biggest drivers of his decision -- which had been reported for several days -- was being term-limited as chairman.

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"I don't want to be around here, you know, second-guessing a chairman," he said. "And I don't want people making comparisons, you know, we just used to do it this way, we're doing -- so, that was the biggest motivator."

McKeon indicated he would like Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, to take over the Armed Services Committee chairmanship when he retires.

"I think he will make an excellent chairman," he said. "And I think that the committee will do very well with his leadership."

He said his retirement will give him and his more time with their children and grandchildren.

He took a parting shot at the more conservative elements of his party who have made life difficult for House Speaker John Boehner.

"I think every member of our conference ought to have a look at themselves and evaluate what they were sent here to do," McKeon said, "and if they can't support the leadership, then you know, let them run for leadership."

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