California Republican David Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee whose district was carved up in congressional redistricting, announced today that he won’t seek re-election this year to a 17th term in Congress.
Dreier, 59, who has headed the panel that sets the terms of debate for bills considered by the House, would have faced a competitive race because his southern California district was redrawn and is now strongly Democratic-leaning. A majority of the voters in the new district are Hispanic.
In a statement delivered on the House floor today, Dreier recalled that he had considered retiring in 2010. He ended up seeking re-election that year, he said, to help “reverse the very dangerous 82 percent increase” in domestic discretionary spending that didn’t include defense and to win ratification of free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
“We have fundamentally altered the federal spending process, focusing on fiscal discipline rather than profligacy,” Dreier said. “We not only passed all three pending free trade agreements, we did so with the largest bipartisan support of any trade measure in years.”
Dreier is one of the House’s most influential members because the Rules panel he leads sets the parameters for debate on major legislation. He has served on the panel since 1991, including as chairman from 1999 through 2006, when Democrats won control of the House and he lost the chairmanship. Dreier became chairman again after Republicans reclaimed control of the House in the 2010 election.
If Republicans keep their House majority in the November election, Texas Republican Pete Sessions would be next in line, by seniority, as Rules Committee chairman.
Ran in 1978
Dreier was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and moved to California to attend Claremont McKenna College, from which he graduated in 1975. He first ran for the House in 1978, losing to Democratic incumbent Jim Lloyd, and won a rematch in 1980, when former California governor Ronald Reagan was elected president in a landslide.
Dreier, 28 when first elected, is one of 17 members in the current Congress who have spent more than half of their lives serving there.
Dreier’s retirement continues a pattern of weakening clout for California, the nation’s most-populous state with 53 House members. Dreier is the seventh member of California’s House delegation who has announced plans to retire after this session or to seek other office.
Altogether, Dreier is the 36th House member who has announced plans to forgo a re-election campaign this year. Twenty are Democrats and 16 are Republicans.
He had signaled that he might not seek re-election, raising $91,215 in contributions last year, according to Federal Elections Commission records. These contributions included $15,465 from individuals.