Norm Dicks is dealt a new hand to play

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks summed up his place in the next Congress by quoting former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox:

“You have to play the hand you are dealt.”

Norm Dicks

Norm Dicks, the Belfair Democrat, is well known for bringing home federal dollars to restore streams and estuaries throughout Puget Sound. Everywhere he goes, he’s patted on the back for the many restoration projects that seem to be improving conditions for fish and wildlife. After last week’s election, everyone from shellfish growers to Gov. Chris Gregoire must be wondering what will happen next to Puget Sound funding.

Norm told me after the election that he has always worked well with Republicans on the Interior and Defense appropriations subcommittees, the two bodies where he has recently served as chairman. (See my story in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun.) Before 2006, as ranking minority member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, he helped launch an initiative to restore facilities in rundown national parks, an effort that continues to today.

Maybe Norm’s 34 years in the House gives him a special perspective, but he seems undaunted by House Republicans, who appear to be in no mood for major spending on programs like the national parks. To me, it looks like we’re going to have gridlock between the House, controlled by Republicans, and the Senate, controlled by Democrats.

Dicks wishes more voters nationwide would have recognized how many jobs were created by the federal stimulus package. He doesn’t think cutting taxes, as Republicans propose, will create many new jobs. And reducing the federal budget will cause layoffs — at least in government — with ripple effects in the economy.

On “60 Minutes” (9:42 into Part 1), correspondent Steve Kroft asked President Obama, “What can you do to create jobs that hasn’t already been done?”

Obama’s answer was not surprising:

“Some of this is going to be just a matter of the economy healing. There are some things we can do to accelerate growth. We’ve got a couple of trillion dollars worth of infrastructure improvements that need to be made around the country.

“There are construction crews all across the country that are dying for work and companies that are willing to take a very small profit in order to get work done. Now’s the time for us to rebuild this country and equip ourselves for the 21st century…

“Historically, rebuilding our infrastructure is something that has garnered Democratic and Republican support. I want to have a conversation with them (Republicans) and see if that’s still the case.”

Obama says he is as concerned as Republicans about the federal deficit. But with record-low inflation rates, the Democrats’ strategy has been to stimulate the economy first and worry about inflation later. Most voters in last week’s election apparently did not believe in that strategy — and now Democrats in Congress will play the hands they are dealt.

When it comes to Norm Dicks, one other point is worth mentioning. While residents of Washington state know about his environmental commitment here at home, I’ve learned over the years that Norm is also recognized nationwide for supporting and sometimes launching environmental initiatives. I’ve listed some of the nationwide programs here:

Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Initiative

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (EPA)

Forest Service ecosystem health and wildfire suppression (PDF 55 kb)

The Clean Water Act Revolving Fund (EPA)

Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (Fish and Wildlife Service)

Forest Legacy Program (Forest Service)

Land and Water Conservation Fund

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