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Dicks Expected to Succeed Murtha at HAC-D

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) is expected to succeed Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) as chairman of the powerful House Appropriations, Defense (HAC-D) panel.

Mr. Murtha, who died this past week at the age of 76 due to complications with a gall bladder procedure, leaves behind a decidedly mixed legacy.  Revered by his constituents, feared and respected in the halls of Congress, and the subject of both official inquiry and public scorn for the manner in which he conducted the business of defense appropriation, Mr. Murtha was the longest serving congressman in Pennsylvania history and the first Vietnam combat veteran to serve in Congress.  He truly lived by the maxim that “all Politics is local,” and was not ashamed to use his influence to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks to defense companies with offices in his southwestern Pennsylvania district.  He was effusive and unapologetic about his ability to broker deals for his constituents; he has said that “deal making is what Congress is all about,” and once remarked about his middle initial that “the ‘P’ stands for power.”  The HAC-D chairman is regarded as “a cardinal” on the Hill for the degree of influence he or she holds over defense spending, and despite his polarizing personality and tactics, nobody wielded that influence more effectively than Mr. John P. Murtha.

Mr. Dicks therefore has some rather large shoes to fill.  Elected to Congress in 1976, Mr. Dicks currently chairs the Appropriations Committee’s Interior panel.  He has been active in defense issues, specifically the ongoing debate over how to move forward with the Air Force KC-X Tanker program.  He is a strong supporter of the Boeing bid (Boeing is incorporated in Washington state), and analysts are already forecasting the impact he could have on that debate should he indeed become HAC-D chairman.

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