Even Congress gets weary of Congress…
It’s not just voters who get tired of Congress — members of Congress get tired of Congress.
“I am bone tired,” David Obey said in announcing his retirement after 21 terms (that would be 42 years) as a Democratic congressman from Wisconsin.
Public opinion polls show that anti-incumbent sentiment is high going into the November congressional elections in which every House seat and one-third of the Senate are up for grabs. There’s also history to contend with — in the mid-term election during a new presidency the party of the president usually loses seats — that would be Democrats this year.
And some members of Congress have decided it’s just not worth the fight, even from relatively safe districts. Although, Obey says his decision had nothing to do with any concern about winning the election. By dropping out, Republican Sean Duffy suddenly became the front runner in that district, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist blogged.
“I believe the job of a good politician was to be used up fighting on behalf of causes you believed in, and when you are used up, to step aside and let someone else carry on the battle. Well, today I feel used up,” Obey said.
Why would someone leave a high-powered post as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee with his fist on the government’s purse strings?
“I am, frankly, weary of having to beg on a daily basis that both parties recognize that we do no favor for the country if we neglect to make the long-term investments in education, science, health, and energy that are necessary to modernize our economy and decline to raise the revenue needed to pay for those crucial investments,” he said.
“I do not want to be in a position as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of producing and defending lowest common denominator legislation that is inadequate to that task and, given the mood of the country, that is what I would have to do if I stayed.”
Obey, saying he would turn 72 soon, noted the recent deaths of his former colleagues Charlie Wilson and Jack Murtha at age 76. And he said he will have served longer than all but 18 of the 10,637 members ever to serve in the House –“The wear and tear is beginning to take its toll.”
So Obey asked himself how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. “Frankly, I do not know what I will do next. All I do know is that there has to be more to life than explaining the ridiculous, accountability destroying rules of the Senate to confused, angry, and frustrated constituents.”
While the Democrats, who control Congress, are able to push their priorities through the House, in the Senate they face rules that allow the minority party to more easily block legislation.
And then there was the swing at reporters.
“I am also increasingly weary of having to deal with a press which has become increasingly focused on trivia, driven at least in part by the financial collapse of the news industry and the need, with the 24-hour news cycle, to fill the air waves with hot air,” Obey said.
Do you think the retirement of senior, experienced, members of Congress like Obey is a plus or a minus?
Photo credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas (Obey after announcing his retirement)