Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives education committee, is leaving the panel to take the same position on the House Armed Services Committee, creating a vacuum in his party at a time when the committee will be considering significant student loan and other legislation. Congress Daily reported. McKeon, whose central California district has numerous military installations, became chairman of what is now called the House Education and Labor Committee in 2006 and has served as its top Republican ever since. He has been an outspoken advocate for student loan providers, and is walking away from the committee at a time when it will play a central role in considering the Obama administration's controversial proposal to end the lender-based guaranteed loan program. Who will succeed him is likely to be a vexing issue for his party. The next most senior Republican, Rep. Thomas Petri of Wisconsin, is almost certainly off limits because he supports the competing direct loan program; other candidates, like Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan and Rep. Michael Castle of Delaware, are entertaining runs for governor and senator, respectively. Reps. Joe Wilson of South Carolina and John Kline of Minnesota both told Congress Daily that they would seek to replace McKeon on the education committee.