Derek Kilmer

$6 Billion Buys Status Quo

Despite $6 billion spent in federal election campaigns, the political landscape in Washington, D.C. remains virtually unchanged — basically the same cast, plot and fiscal cliff.

President Obama's decisive electoral college victory, a fortified Democratic majority in the Senate and a return GOP majority in the House set the stage for a dramatic few weeks before the January 2 deadline when tax cuts expire and drastic spending cuts go into effect. 

The drama may prove anti-climatic, as some observers predict the lame-duck Congress will punt the ball to itself by approving short-term extensions of tax cuts and current spending levels – the equivalent of driving to the cliff, but at a slower speed.

Meanwhile, the election produced some positive outcomes for the Northwest congressional delegation:

  • Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash, who wasn't even on the ballot, may have scored the biggest victory by keeping Senate Democrats in the majority, a prospect that seemed dim just six months ago. Murray will retain her chairmanship of the Senate Transportation and Housing Appropriations Subcommittee and assume the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee, both formidable perches to influence economic and job-stimulus policy.

  • Senator Ron Wyden, D-OR, is slated to become chairman of Senate Energy and Natural Resources, the first chair since 1987 from a non-oil producing state. He can be expected to cheerlead for domestic energy production and use, while continuing to oppose exporting liquefied natural gas. Wyden also sits on Senate Finance, which will be involved in federal tax reform, something he has championed.

Stormin' Norman to Retire

From college lineman to congressional quarterback, Norm Dicks has served in Congress 36 years and plowed billions back into Washington's economy and natural resources.Norm Dicks, who played guard for the University of Washington football team, but quarterbacked the state's congressional delegation, announced he won't seek re-election after serving 18 terms in the U.S. House. He is 71.

Dicks, like his mentor and former boss, Senator Warren Magnuson, has been a stalwart on the House Appropriations Committee, bringing home largesse to Washington. A native of Bremerton, Dicks protected his home state defense establishment, most recently helping secure a billion-dollar Boeing Air Force refueling tanker contract. The Bremerton Naval Base couldn't have had a more loyal, capable or unabashed defender.

But he also pressed for money to clean Puget Sound and Hood Canal, to restore the spotted owl and remove dams on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula to return salmon runs.

"It's hard to quit. I love this job," Dicks told reporters as he announced his decision. "I learned from the greatest two senators — Magnuson and Senator Henry Jackson."

Senator Patty Murray, who handles spending issues on Washington's behalf in the Senate, called Dicks "a true Washington State institution. More than that, he is my mentor, my friend, my advisor, my teammate and my brother. He is our state's quarterback here in Congress. I can't imagine our delegation without him."