WASHINGTON -- Rep. Norm Dicks, the top-ranked Democrat on the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee and one of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill, said Friday that he would call it quits in January, ending a 36-year career.
Although Dicks represents the 6th District in Western Washington, he has acted as the 4th District's second representative, said Gary Petersen, vice president of Hanford programs for the Tri-City Development Council.
He repeatedly has teamed with Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., to move legislation forward that benefited the Tri-Cities, Petersen said.
Dicks has fought to keep Hanford nuclear reservation budgets from being cut and also for money to build replacement facilities after the Department of Energy announced plans to tear down Hanford buildings used by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
He pushed to get Hanford's historic B Reactor considered as part of a new national park featuring Manhattan Project history. He also continues to oppose the shutdown of the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository, which would effect both naval nuclear fuel in his own district and Hanford spent fuel and vitrified waste expected to be sent there.
Some of the strongest early support came from Dicks to create the Volpentest HAMMER training facility near Richland, where people ranging from Hanford workers to international border guards have trained, said Sam Volpentest before his death in 2005. Volpentest was a community leader with the ear of Congress.
Dicks' interest in the Tri-Cities stretched back to the eight years he worked for Sen. Warren Magnuson, D-Wash., starting in 1968.
"Magnuson early on told Norm to pay attention to Sam Volpentest. And Norm did," Petersen said.
Dicks' support for Tri-City causes may have started in part because of the friendship he developed with Volpentest, but his support of HAMMER, B Reactor, PNNL and Hanford cleanup continued because he saw their value to the nation, Petersen said.
"We hailed from opposite sides of the political spectrum and the Cascade Mountains, but I've always admired Norm Dicks for his commitment to standing up for the state of Washington," Hastings said in a statement. "Since I was first elected, Norm has been a close ally in advocating for cleanup of Hanford."
Dicks ranks 10th among the 435 House members in seniority and is the longest-serving House member from Washington, topping Democrat Tom Foley, who left Congress in 1995 after 30 years.
"Everybody has to go," Dicks, 71, said in an interview Friday.
Dicks said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
"I'd be 74 at the end of my next term," he said. "And you know, with all respect, I just think I've got 10 to 15 years, and I want to just spend them with my family, and more fishing, and a few of those things."
Dicks joins a growing list of lawmakers who are choosing to step aside.