Top U.S. House Appropriations Democrat Norm Dicks to Retire

U.S. Representative Norman Dicks
U.S. Representative Norman Dicks. Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Representative Norm Dicks, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee and one of the House’s longest-serving members, said today he won’t seek re-election.

“I have made the decision to change gears and enjoy life at a different pace,” Dicks, 71, said in a statement.

It’s the latest in a series of retirements that include announcements this week by Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine and Representative David Dreier of California, both Republicans, that they won’t seek re-election.

Ten senators -- seven Democrats and three Republicans -- have said they won’t face voters again in November. Dicks becomes the 37th House member, and the 21st Democrat, to announce plans to step down.

His seat should remain in the Democratic column, said Nathan Gonzales, an analyst for the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “I don’t think we’ll be talking about this seat in terms of the fight for the House this fall,” he said. “Democrats should be able to hold it.”

President Barack Obama said in a statement, “Norm’s dedication to our nation’s intelligence personnel and his leadership on the Appropriations Committee will be missed in Congress.”

Football Linebacker

Dicks, a former linebacker for the University of Washington football team, is the top Democrat on the committee that decides how to spend about one-third of the federal budget.

He also is the top Democrat on its defense subcommittee, where he has been a strong advocate for Boeing Co., which employs thousands in his western Washington district.

He helped lead Democrats in defeating Republican efforts to use must-pass spending bills to force changes in a number of administration policies.

Dicks had good relations with Republicans. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, said, “Despite our ideological differences, Norm has never hesitated to work together.”

“I have rarely had the chance to work with someone of his decency, strong work ethic, jovial character and honesty,” Rogers said in a statement. Representative Jerry Lewis, a California Republican who also serves on the panel, said, “The Appropriations Committee will sorely miss his leadership.”

Marcy Kaptur

The departure may aid Representative Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, the second-ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. The prospect of taking over the party’s top spot may boost her re-election bid, where she is in a primary battle against fellow Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich.

Indiana’s Peter Visclosky is the second-ranking Democrat on the defense appropriations subcommittee.

Dicks is serving his 18th term, tying him with two colleagues as the 10th longest-serving member currently in the House. He was elected to the seat in 1976 after graduating from the University of Washington law school and working for the state’s late Senator Warren Magnuson.

Dicks won a rare first-term appointment to the Appropriations panel and steadily gained in seniority. He took over his party’s top spot on the panel last year after of Representative David Obey of Wisconsin retired.

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