Austin congressman expected to chair homeland security panel

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, is expected to be named on Wednesday as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, a high-profile panel that focuses on preventing terrorism and securing the borders.

The House Republican Steering Committee voted Tuesday to recommend McCaul. The Republican Conference, made up of the majority party’s members, will make the final, procedural vote Wednesday. Assuming all goes as planned, McCaul will replace Rep. Peter King, R-New York.

McCaul said in a statement that he looks forward to working with the Obama administration, his fellow chairmen and women and community and industry stakeholders.

McCaul currently chairs one of the panel’s subcommittees. His spokesman Mike Rosen said he didn’t know of any immediate implications for Central Texas, but that McCaul is aware of potential terrorist targets in the state, such as petrochemical facilities on the coast and the Port of Houston.

McCaul edged out Rep. Candice Miller, a Republican from Michigan, who had sought to be the first female chair of the powerful committee.

Though Miller won’t get the top position, Republican leaders are “painfully aware” of the gender gap, with women voters favoring President Barack Obama by 11 points and men favoring Republican Mitt Romney by 7 points, said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University .

“They’ll look to see what they can do to make sure Candice Miller is not displeased,” Jillson said.

House Speaker John Boehner likely chose McCaul over Miller to ensure that Texas, with the largest Republican delegation in the House, has an proportionate number of chairmanships Jillson said.

Also expected Wednesday is the announcement that Rep. Lamar Smith, a Republican from San Antonio whose district extends into parts of Hays and Travis counties, will take over at the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

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