Nation & World

Congressional power shift could lift state's clout

WASHINGTON - Washington Rep. Norm Dicks has waited 30 years to become a cardinal.

Now, with Democrats taking control of the House, Dicks is in line to become head of one of 13 appropriations subcommittees whose chairmen are known on Capitol Hill as cardinals, overseeing billions of dollars in federal spending.

Dicks is not the only House member from Washington state who could benefit from the Democratic takeover.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray also could become an appropriations subcommittee chairman, probably transportation. Though the math is trickier, Murray might also be named the first woman chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

"We are in strong leadership positions in areas Washington state is trying to make progress on," Murray said Wednesday. "It will be a lot of opportunity and a lot of work."

Democratic Rep. Adam Smith said there was "no question" Tuesday's election would be good for the state.

"We've got most of the bases covered," he said.

Smith could become chairman of an Armed Services subcommittee, perhaps the one with jurisdiction over personnel and military quality-of-life issues such as health care and enhanced benefits for members of the National Guard or Reserves.

Even newly re-elected Sen. Maria Cantwell could be a subcommittee chairman. For Cantwell, it's the fisheries and Coast Guard subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee.

"We will be in a much better position to help people," Dicks said.

Most likely, Dicks will lead the interior appropriations subcommittee with control over federal cleanup funding for Puget Sound and Hood Canal, money to restore the region's endangered salmon runs and the budgets for national parks, national forests, the Environmental Protection Agency including the Superfund, the Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Dicks and Rep. Jim McDermott are the only House members from the state who survived the Republican revolution led by Newt Gingrich 12 years ago.