Not long ago we shared the news that U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, might be in line for ascendancy to the House Appropriations Committee’s chairmanship following the announced retirement of U.S. Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc.
At the time there was a potential opponent, but not enough early thought that Dicks could be bypassed for the job. A subsequent offering by the Washington Post’s Dana Millbank gives some reason to wonder, though, if the timing might not be right for a substantial challenge.
Now, with the just-announced retirement of Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), Democrats are signaling that he will be replaced as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee by Dicks, the next in line — giving the honorable gentleman from Boeing broad control of about $1.4 trillion in annual discretionary spending. It’s an odd message the Democrats are sending: Return us to power, and we’ll return to business as usual.
Were the hand-off to be immediate I doubt Dicks would face a serious battle for the job. But nothing about the next Congress will be certain until November. We’re six months away from then, and as has been said time and again, in politics that’s an eternity. As much hope and fear there is out there that 2010 will be another 1994, betting on that now should pay you well if you’re right. If the state’s economist, Arun Raha, is right, the economy is rebounding, albeit slowly. Whether it will be rebounded enough by November to soften anti-incumbent sentiment we can’t be certain of now. And Raha only reduced the odds of there being a double-dip recession. He didn’t eliminate them.
Why that matters is the same reason it mattered in 2008. I read Palin’s book, and she seems to believe the economy doomed McCain’s chances to win the presidency. Few question that it certainly influenced his chances and those of other Republicans.
So much can happen between now and November that we can’t anticipate now, much as we didn’t anticipate September 2008.
All this calls into question whether Dicks will have trouble getting the Appropriations post next year. Of course, if Republicans do well enough to win back the House majority, the question is moot. So it would be if someone could beat Dicks himself.
Beyond that, though, Democrats might maintain the majority and Dicks retain his seat, but the party could see its margin shrink by a ton.
The overriding question will be whether there will be some message to Congress to shake things up. The next question will be if others see Dicks the same way Millbank does, enough to make the party shy about handing him the spot it’s clear he wants.