A retired member of Congress probably has a few more career
options than the rest of us when we leave our jobs. “Championing
legislation” might not be a skill marketable should U.S. Rep. Norm
Dicks, D-Belfair, apply for a job at Supercuts. So if you’ve got a
cosmetology degree you might have a leg up on him there. But I
don’t think our 36-year congressman is going to be hurting for
On Sunday in Tacoma, at a party honoring his career, Dicks took
to the mic and showed his versatility. He can not only make a
lasting mark on Tacoma and Bremerton and do whatever opportunity
arises for a former college linebacker, the congressman can
You might want to interpret “can sing” the way all of us “can
sing.” At least he knows the words. Like Buckwheat, once Norm Dicks
sings a song, it’s eternally his.
Most jobs you’re actually allowed to pack up your stuff and leave
the building forever before you’re displaced from your desk. I mean
imagine your boss telling you in two weeks you have to leave, and
for that two weeks you have to move all your stuff to the room with
the vending machines.
That’s akin to what’s happening in Congress. I guess it’s how
things work there, because nobody complains about it that I know
of. I didn’t know that was how things operated and I had the
experience of a highly educational internship as a reporter in
Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1986, when John McCain, John
Breaux, Harry Reid and Tom Daschle gave up their House seats for
ones in the Senate.
I learned all about this office shuffling on Thursday. I had
read the story about newly elected Congressman Derek Kilmer picking
number 65 out of 70 for office space. (In that competition, that
high score is a bad thing.) But it hadn’t occurred to me that Norm
Dicks would already be out of his space. I mean now it makes sense.
Like “duh.” I should have had my first clue when I saw all the
furniture in the Rayburn hallways.
But on Thursday I knew his staff was in the Rayburn building. I
went there and looked at the directory on the wall to find out
which office belonged to our soon-to-be retired politician. I found
the number, went to the location and found a California flag
outside the door. The office now belongs to George Miller, D-Calif.
I asked the cherubs inside the front office where Dicks’ office had
gone to and was told it was in the basement cafeteria, where all
the “retirees” from the building were placed. I put that word in
quotes, because not everyone down there is retiring by choice.
“Basement” in this case isn’t as bad as it sounds, and there is
a separation between the room of cubicles and the actual eating
After finding Dicks’ main cubicle (No. 36) I was told my contact
there, Chief of Staff George Behan, would be there in a while. So I
waited in a comfy chair nearby and was looking over emails when in
my view I saw Cubicle 27, the current landing spot of U.S. Rep.
Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio. You may remember that Kucinich considered
becoming “D-Wash.” but wasn’t exactly welcomed by local party brass
and he wasn’t gerrymandered out of his district as expected.
Instead, he was put in the same district as Marcy Kaptur, another
Ohio Democrat who also wasn’t looking to retire. She beat him in
the primary, which set the stage for Kucinich being found in a
cubicle smaller than mine, straining his neck to talk on his cell
phone and wondering where his stapler went.
Dicks, by the way, being the ranking Democrat in Appropriations,
has office space in the committee offices and he has his own office
space in the Capitol itself. From my perspective, he still looks
like a member of Congress.
An impending retirement doesn’t get you a pass from government
watchdogs. U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, was awarded a
“dishonorable mention” today from the Citizens for Responsibility
in Washington in its annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress
report. The bulk of the criticism is from the congressman’s ability
to funnel federal money to organizations his son David was
“After spending more than 30 years in Congress, Rep. Dicks
apparently learned a few tricks on how to game the appropriations
process,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan in the
organization’s press release. “Directing millions of dollars to his
son’s organization via noncompetitive agreements and grants is
ludicrous. Conduct like this reinforces the widely held view that
members of Congress are more interested in enriching themselves and
their family members than in public service.”
While the criticism is pointed, Dicks is only within the second
tier of legislators the organization names. He joins seven others
in the “Dishonorable Mention” category, including California
Republican Darrell Issa, who CREW says broke disclosure laws in his
quest to hold Attorney General Eric Holder accountable for the
“Fast and Furious” mess. And Ron Paul fans, fresh off their outrage
at how their delegates were treated at the Republican National
Convention, will no doubt be humbled by CREW’s placement of Paul in
the same list as Dicks, because the retiring Texas Republican
reportedly “billed his member’s representational allowance for
travel receipts while receiving reimbursements in identical amounts
from either his campaign or one of a handful of libertarian
nonprofits, including one where the mother-in-law of one of his
daughters was treasurer. ”
The top tier, named the “Most Corrupt,” include four Democrats
and eight Republicans.
California Democrat Rep. Laura Richardson makes the list of 12
of the most corrupt because, CREW reports, she “bullied and coerced
her official staff into working on her reelection campaign.”
New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm cracked the list of 12
because, according to CREW, “The New York Republican enlisted a
well-connected Israeli citizen, Ofer Biton, during his 2010
campaign. Mr. Biton allegedly helped candidate Grimm solicit large
sums from donors, including several pornography distributors,
frequently breaking campaign contribution limits in the process,
all in the hope that, once in office, Rep. Grimm would help him
procure a green card.”
CREW has been publishing its “Most Corrupt” list since 2005.
This is the first time Dicks has received any mention on it.
Dicks, Paul and Democrat Rep. Edolphus Towns are all retiring.
Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida lost in that state’s
primary, so he won’t be back.
Sloan said Dicks’ retirement was not at all a factor in whether
he made this year’s list. I asked her that question because I
remember receiving CREW’s list going back a few years and each year
I would look for the local angle. One year, 2010, CREW didn’t name
a single legislator, because after five years of publishing its
list and naming 56 different lawmakers the organization grew tired
that 37 of those lawmakers were never even investigated by the
ethics overseers in either house. Of the 19 that were investigated,
three were officially “admonished” and two were given statements of
I tried to reach Dicks’ office to comment on this and have yet
to speak to someone there. I’ll keep trying.
“It’s always in the back of my mind that you’re looking for the
next way to serve,” Boyer said March 7.
Since then he’s decided not to join the race. Instead Boyer has
endorsed state Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who announced his
intentions to run earlier this year.
Here’s the official release from Boyer:
Like so many throughout Kitsap County, I was surprised by
Congressman Norm Dicks’ announcement that he would not be seeking
reelection. Once the initial impact of the announcement passed, I
took some time to consider whether the honor to participate as a
United States Congressman and to help set a positive course for the
future of America might be the best decision for my family, Kitsap
County, and the citizens of the 6th Congressional District.
There were many factors to weigh while considering a decision of
this magnitude and I would like to give my thanks for the
confidence and encouragement extended by so many diverse groups and
individuals for such a candidacy. The final analysis demanded
determining where one can provide the most value for our citizens.
This would be a capstone to my 40 years of public service in which
success is measured by accomplishment and the respective trust
which must exist with our citizens. I also have a high level of
personal and professional satisfaction in ensuring public safety as
the Kitsap County Sheriff.
Therefore, after due consideration, I am endorsing Derek Kilmer
in the Sixth District Congressional race. He has the right
skill set built upon a foundation of strong character. I
trust that Derek will always defend American values and do what is
important for our Nation.
Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown, whom
outgoing Congressman Norm Dicks had on a short list of possible
replacement candidates, announced Sunday he will not seek to
represent the Sixth Congressional District.
Brown, a Democrat, said he feels he can be most effective in his
current position as Central Kitsap Commissioner, a post to which he
was re-elected in 2010.
“I ran for commissioner six years ago to make a difference in the
community I grew up in, and I think I’ve done that,” Brown said.
“At the end of the day, my passion is really working at the local
level and on regional issues.”
Locally, Brown cited his role in the completion of a YMCA in
Central Kitsap. Regionally, as president
of the Puget Sound Regional Council he was able to help secure
a long-term commitment from Boeing, he said. Brown also chairs the
Hood Canal Coordinating Council.
Brown said his decision was in no way influenced by state
Sen. Derek Kilmer’s recent announcement that he will run for
“I don’t make decisions dependent on other people,” Brown said. “I
make decisions based on what’s right, and what’s right for me is to
stay on the board of commissioners.”
Brown said he was honored Dicks mentioned him among fewer than a
half dozen potential Democratic candidates, including Kilmer,
Marilyn Strickland, mayor of Tacoma, and Pierce County Executive
Pat McCarthy. McCarthy has endorsed Kilmer.
Brown said he hopes whoever replaces the long-time congressman will
have Dicks’ same commitment to Kitsap’s Naval bases and to the
“I was really surprised at Norm’s decision a couple of weeks ago,”
Brown said. “He’s a good friend and the best congressman anyone
could ask for.”
Everything shared here could be considered moot by the end of
the year, depending on what the redistricting commission comes up
with. If we lose the First Congressional District completely, then
this won’t really matter to a Kitsap audience.
Speaking of redistricting, in California 29 of the state’s 53
incumbents were drawn into new districts. A
member of congress does not have to live in the district being
represented, but it’s usually kind of a good idea.
The point here was to discuss the names of candidates seeking to
replace Jay Inslee. According to the Federal Elections Commission,
four candidates have filed to run for the First District seat in
2012. Republican James Watkins will try again and is for now the
On the Democratic side state Rep. Marko Liias of Edmonds is
running, as is Sammamish state Rep. John Goodman and business owner
In the Sixth District Republican Jesse Young hopes to improve on
his third-place finish in 2010 and will be joined by fellow
Republican Robert Sauerwein in a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks
I recorded the conversation with U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks,
D-Belfair, for the Sunday story on his
position on U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. He is among Democrats and
a few Republicans calling for a quicker withdrawal of U.S.
I also asked him about Libya, Iraq and whether Anthony Weiner
should resign. I cut about a minute and a half from the recording,
but it’s still a bit more than 19 minutes long.
During the conversation yesterday with state Sen. Tim Sheldon,
D-Potlatch, I asked him about other whispers he’s hearing down in
Olympia about the impact of redistricting.
By the way, I called Sheldon because he has been through two of
Sheldon mentioned that he thinks Brinnon could become part of
the 35th District because the area is part of the Mason County
Public Utility District.
In years past there have been conversations about extending the
23rd District into Jefferson County. I don’t think it has been
seriously considered by the group of redistricting commissioners,
but there is some sentiment that Port Townsend is a good match with
Bainbridge Island. Geographically it is a stretch.
What may make more sense to some is linking Bainbridge to a
district in Seattle. Still, not very likely, and one commenter on
the story thought the notion ridiculous.
I read our stories from 1991 and 2001 and in both cases there
was a large group who thought Kitsap should only have two
legislative districts. I’m not sure why that would be better
politically for this area. At first glance it does seem like more
is better. Bremerton itself is represented by nine different
legislators, even though not one legislator is actually from
One of the impacts of redistricting worth watching is that 35th
District swing. The district will still likely take in all of Mason
County. It’s the fringes that are worth taking notice of.
The reason I believe we are more likely to lose the 35th
District, or at least part of it, is because of where the
incumbents live. Sheldon (Potlatch) and state Rep. Kathy Haigh
(Shelton) both are in Mason County. Fred Finn lives near Olympia in
Several months ago I did another story on
redistrictings and spoke with the man many agree is
the state’s foremost expert on the subject, Dick Morrill. By e-mail
he told me, “The commission’s first unwritten rule is to protect
So you would think, assuming what Morrill said is true, that the
35th District’s emphasis in the redistricting plan would favor
Thurston County over Kitsap. I don’t know specifically where the
population growth has happened in Thurston County, so it could be
that the 35th won’t change much at all. Sheldon said he thought not
many incumbents will find themselves in a new district.
Sheldon also said state Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, is
considering running for Congress should Jay Inslee run for
governor, as practically everyone is assuming. What isn’t so clear,
however, is what district Liias will live once redistricting is
done. If Inslee does announce he’s running for governor, there’s no
incumbent to protect, so the First Congressional District could see
This again goes to the idea that all of Kitsap County could be
in one congressional district represented by Norm Dicks. Imagine
that. And if Bainbridge were lumped with Seattle legislatively, we
could have 12 legislators representing the county.
Here’s a cliche for you: The possibilities are endless.
Actually, they’re not. They pretty much range from Kitsap having
one or two members of Congress and two-four legislative districts.
That’s not exactly endless, is it.
The earlier trifecta of political speak was always determined to
fall into three categories: 1. Taking credit, 2. Taking a position,
and 3. Advertising.
This might not be too different from how we all run our lives
anyway. Broadcasters always talk about having an “exclusive.” In
the workplace a well-placed bit of credit can pay off in the
wallet. Here is how the three, now four, categories could work at
1. Thanks to my leadership, the garbage cans are empty. My son
took out the garbage and did so at my direction.
2. I am in favor of empty garbage cans.
3. Look at me, standing next to empty garbage cans.
4. My son hates his family, evidenced by his failure to empty
the garbage cans, despite my repeated warnings.”
Just today, Washington State Democrats re-tweeted this:
RT @glossolaliac: Tea Party shutdown means military won’t
get paid. http://ow.ly/4vx2z // Does the GOP hate freedom?
#govshutdown #p2 #wadem
That can’t be true, that Republicans hate freedom. In November,
new House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said this:
“And we can celebrate when we have a government that has
earned back the trust of the people it serves. When we have a
government that honors our Constitution and stands up for the
values that have made America, America: economic freedom,
individual liberty, and personal responsibility.”
Even without the quote, the comment that almost anyone in any
American political party hates freedom is absurd. I think the
Democrat who posted that tweet probably knew that and made the
comment tongue in cheek.
Yesterday the Republicans took their shot:
#Democrat Rep. Norm Dicks admits in House floor speech that
the #budget mess is the fault of the #Dems.
Here’s what Dicks said in the middle of a speech in which I’m
pretty sure he faulted Republicans as well for the current budget
“I will be the first to admit that it’s because we didn’t
pass, the Democrats didn’t pass, our bills last year that we’re
here working on this. So we have responsibility, too . .
So, “We have responsibility,” becomes “It’s our fault,”
according to the tweet.
This doesn’t just permeate politics, it resonates everywhere. If
you admit any accountability, those who have any interest
in ducking blame will use that to say it’s all your
I contacted Dicks’ office to see if I could get the transcript
of the entire speech. Instead he called me back. He again admitted
that Democrats bear a lot of responsibility for the current budget
impasse, but pointed out that the same thing happened to
Republicans when they lost power in 2006. And he emphasized,
something he was getting into at the end of the video, that he and
the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky, are
working to make the appropriations process more transparent.
Dicks also offered that Boehner is in a tough spot because of
the demands being made by some of the new Republicans in the House.
You can read that to include both conciliation and an insult to
Bear in mind this is only about politicians doing their day
jobs. As we look forward to the 2012 election (And who isn’t!) the
taunting or insulting language will jump from the 27 percent it is
during session to substantially more on the stump.
Expect to hear that Rob McKenna’s father smells of elderberries,
and Jay Inslee’s mother was a hamster.
Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, and Sen. Maria Cantwell have
introduced companion bills “to provide the Quileute Indian Tribe
tsunami and flood protection and for other purposes” (H.R.
1162 and S. 636).
Dick tweeted today, “Great video on need for Quileute tsunami
protection legislation, recently introduced by Norm and Sen.
From the bill under findings:
(C) for many decades, the Tribe and the Park (National Park
Service/ Olympic National Park) have had a dispute over the
Reservation boundaries along the Quillayute River;
(D) in recent years, this dispute has intensified as the Tribe
has faced an urgent need for additional lands for housing, schools,
and other Tribe purposes outside the tsunami and Quillayute River
flood zones; and
(E) the lack of a settlement of this dispute threatens to
adversely impact the public’s existing and future recreational use
of several attractions in the Park that are accessed by the
public’s use of Reservation lands.
Over in the righthand column we now have a widget that offers
you the latest from PolitiFact.com’s Truth-O-Meter.
Some truth-o-metrics played a role in preparing the story for
this weekend that discussed possible local impacts of federal
budget cuts. One of the questions I ran across is how much cutting
is really going on. That started with the Washington Post The Fact Checker blog
“Democrats keep misleading on claimed budget
‘cuts.'” The entry makes clear that Democrats are
not meeting Republicans halfway on budget cuts by offering $52
billion in cuts compared to Republicans’ $100 billion.
For one thing, the $100 billion figure Republicans are using,
such as in the quote I included from U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera
Beutler, R-Camas, is not correct either. For reasons I’m not sure I
can adequately explain, the Republican cuts are actually about $61
billion and Democrats are closer to $10 billion.
If you’re into math, you know that 10 is not really close to
half of 61 and that 61 is not 100. As a story in today’s Post
explains, though, that’s less of an issue than the fact that
Republicans and Democrats are about $50 billion
In preparing the story I wrote I did my darndest to get a
Republican voice in the story to respond to the comments by union
guy Ivan Weich. I wanted a voice from Congress to match the
comments from Norm Dicks’ spokesman. I first called Herrera Beutler
and got no response. I talked to someone in Dave Reichert’s office
who said he’d try to get someone, but that was the end of it. I
then called the offices of Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and
the Republican National Committee. No luck at any of those
I was disappointed, but in the end I wasn’t surprised. We are,
after all, JUST the Kitsap Sun. None of those representatives have
voters in our districts so it benefits them nothing to call us.
They might have made an exception for the papers from Seattle,
Tacoma or Spokane, but that’s probably it. I can’t say I blame
them, and they are all probably just as happy that I pulled quotes
from their press releases rather than getting a specific answer
about potential closures at local Social Security Administration
offices. There might be a philosophical upside to calling us back,
but not one that translates into stronger re-election chances in
Boeing’s rival for the Air Force contract announced it wouldn’t
contest the decision Friday, prompting statements from nearly every
Washington politician we ever deal with.
Excuse the tardiness of this post. I was off work much of last
For a glimpse of how one change can make such a major difference
in a thing like a contract, read Rob Hotakainen’s story from
the McClatchy DC bureau and you’ll get an education on politics in
government and how U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, pushed for one
change in the contract process that may have changed the entire
From the story:
Dicks pressed the issue at the 2008 congressional
hearing after learning that the Pentagon was using a 25-year
timeframe to examine costs. After the hearing, the defense
subcommittee voted to require the Pentagon to consider the cost of
operating the new tankers over the longer 40-year
And then later:
In a conference call with reporters, a top Boeing
official said the lifecycle costs were key to winning the contract,
which will produce 50,000 jobs nationwide, many of them in
Washington state and Kansas.
The State of the Union speech to be delivered this (Tuesday)
evening by President Obama is likely to call for a couple of things
aimed at the budget.
First, he’ll join Republicans in calling for an end to
Second, he’ll call for a five-year spending freeze on
non-security discretionary spending.
On the second point, “The problem there is you’re talking about
13 percent of the federal budget,” said George Behan, spokesman for
U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair.
Dicks’ position of leadership even though he is again in the
minority party is spelled out pretty well in a (Tacoma) News Tribune story by
McClatchy Washington Bureau reporter Rob Hotakainen.
The story also references the call for no earmarks and the
problems locally (think Port Orchard) that presents.
“I (Dicks) may have done it,” he said in an interview in his
office on Capitol Hill last week. “I’ve been here 34 years. I may
have done the best I can.”
Behan said Dicks takes issue with the president’s apparent
willingness to leave defense out of the spending cut picture. Dicks
gave a speech on the House floor Tuesday (The video appears below.)
referencing $78 billion in defense cuts recommended by Defense
Secretary Robert Gates.
Behan said that in times like these, Dicks believes cuts need to
be made everywhere. “He’s as strong as anybody on defense but he
doesn’t believe you should exempt the Pentagon,” Behan said.
Incidentally, Dicks still doesn’t have a copy of the president’s
speech, late by Washington standards. An excerpt of the Republican response to the
speech has been posted on Facebook.
Non-discretionary spending is far and away the big chunk of the
federal budget, items in defense, Medicare and Social Security. An
overall freeze of spending would cap all spending at whatever it is
this year, but the federal government would have a tough time doing
that, because spending on defense, Medicare and Social Security go
up every year just by maintaining the same level of service. That’s
why a freeze is essentially a cut. Cutting non-discretionary
spending is harder to do, Behan said.
Also part of the president’s speech tonight is . U.S. Rep. Jay
Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, spoke to that this morning on the
floor of the House.
“As we’re coming out of this very deep recession, many of us
believe that one of the brightest spots on our economic horizon is
our ability to develop hundreds of thousands of new jobs in this
country, so that America can fulfill its detiny of leading the
world in clean energy development.”
The entire speech follows, as does the one from Dicks.
Washington is getting a 10th congressional district, which will
likely be placed somewhere in Western Washington. We’re planning on
having a story on the issue posted online later today and running
tomorrow in print. We have also written about this before,
suggesting that while the state might gain a member of Congress,
Kitsap County could feasibly lose one of its two.
In the meantime, you can read the press release that follows
from the Secretary of State’s office. Continue reading →
Dick Morrill at Crosscut makes the case that Olympia is
the most likely central location for the next congressional
district Washington is likely to get as a result of the Census. If
his postulation is correct, that has huge implications for us.
The new Tenth, with Lewis, Pacific, Wahkiakum, and Thurston
counties on its south, would need to add the Olympic peninsula
counties of Clallam, Jefferson, Mason, and Grays Harbor, plus
80,000 or so, probably from Pierce County rather than from
Some of that territory is currently in the Sixth Congressional
District. So Morrill writes:
The Sixth (Democrat Norm Dicks), having lost the peninsula
counties, might logically combine most (or all) of Kitsap and
western Pierce, including Tacoma.
It is worth noting that these theoretical maps contain the
possibility that both of our current members of Congress would be
in new districts. Norm Dicks, whose official residence is in
Belfair, would be part of the new 10th. Jay Inslee would become
part of the Sixth if all of Kitsap was pushed. Political realities,
as Morrill acknowledges, would seem to come into play here, unless
Dicks and Inslee were to suggest that where they live should not
play into the redistricting conversation. That could happen, I
suppose, if Inslee is intent on running for governor and Dicks
decides to retire. Otherwise, I don’t see it. And I would also
think there would be some resistance within Kitsap County about
losing one of two members of Congress with whom to ask for
The Huffington Post, through its investigative fund, calls into question U.S. Rep.
Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, for publicly saying he’d eliminate earmarks
for for-profit companies, but maybe being among those finding a way
around the new rules.
Instead, he and seven other legislators were found to have
redirected money to non-profits for exactly the same purpose. In
Dicks’ case, money that used to go to Intellicheck Mobilisa will
now go to the University of Washington. The money is still related
to IM’s technology, so UW have trouble answering how the university
could get money to work with IM’s product.
The New York Times reported on the
same method of procuring funds, saying it found dozens of cases
worth more than $150 total.
A few days ago I referred you the Dana
Millbank column in the Washington Post offering criticism of the
idea that Norm Dicks, our longtime Belfair/Bremerton/Tacoma
Democrat in Congress, should ascend to the top of the House’s
Now comes Seattlepi.com’s Joel Connelly offering a stinging rebuke to Millbank for
ignoring other parts of Dicks’ history and to Rachel Maddow for
snubbing her nose at Oregon. Most of the column inches focus on
Milbank, a Yale grad and Skull and Bones man, showed that preppy
arrogance can promote anti-government populism. A dose of the
latter will come with unsigned anti-Dicks hate e-mails pointing out
that the congressman’s son works for the Puget Sound
Look at the bigger picture, however, how Dicks has demonstrated
that government can do good stuff. He helped restore a once-seedy
downtown Tacoma. He secured vital dollars for removing dams and
bringing salmon runs back to the Elwha River on the Olympic
He doesn’t stop there. Connelly provides quite a lengthy resume
of Dicks’ work, and bona fides supporting the idea Norm will be a
Speaking of Skull and Bones (John Kerry and George W. Bush are
alums), I’m reading a book about a guy who was a member, worked for
years at an ad agency but then got too old for them and ended up
And if you want to know more about Skull and Bones, read
this piece from The Atlantic,
published in 2000. I loved this part:
In an article in the 1968 Yale yearbook Lanny Davis, a 1967 Yale
graduate and a secret-society member who would go on to become a
White House special counsel in the Clinton Administration,
described how Bones, famous for its distinguished list of members,
held more sway than the others.
Come “Tap Day” … if you’re a junior, despite the fact that
you’ve banged your fist at the lunch table and said, “This is
1968,” and have loudly denounced societies as anachronisms, when
the captain of the football team is standing by your door and when
the tower clock strikes eight he rushes in and claps your shoulder
and shouts, “Skull and Bones, accept or reject?” you almost always
scream out, “Accept!” and you never, never, pound your fist at the
lunch table, not for that reason ever again.
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,
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
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
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
Beyond that, though, Democrats might maintain the majority and
Dicks retain his seat, but the party could see its margin shrink by
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.
U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair,
seems the likely choice to head to the top of the full House
Appropriations Committee, now that the current seat holder is
planning to retire.
The Hill, and just about
everyone else, is speculating that Dicks is the most probable
choice to succeed U.S. Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc., who announced
today he won’t run for re-election this year.
This is, of course, assuming a few things. One assumption is
that Dicks defeats his challengers this year. The second is that
Democrats will retain their majority in the House. The third
assumption is that Dicks would get more votes than anyone else that might challenge him
for the top Appropriations job.