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In a major blow to President Barack Obama’s Democratic allies in the US Congress, one of their top leaders in the House announced Wednesday he will not seek reelection in November.
Representative David Obey of Wisconsin, powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, had faced a battle for a new term amid deep voter anger at lawmakers in Washington, especially Democrats.
“Frankly, I hate to do it; there is so much that needs to be done. But even more frankly, I am bone-tired,” the 71-year-old Obey, who has served in the House of Representatives since 1969, told reporters.
Obey, whose committee shapes spending legislation, played a key role in crafting the nearly 800-billion-dollar economic stimulus package Obama signed last year to revive the sputtering US economy.
He also played a key role in shepherding Obama’s historic health care overhaul through the US Congress and, despite his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, cleared monies to fund both conflicts.
The decision by the gruff-talking lawmaker, seen as one of the House’s most left-leaning members, highlighted the fiercely anti-Washington mood driving voters six months before they decide which party should control the Congress.
Democrats, mindful that a sitting president’s party typically loses a dozen House seats in mid-term votes, have acknowledged that the sour jobs picture and resulting anger at Washington will likely make things worse for them.
Republican leaders predict they could capture the roughly 40 seats needed to retake the House, and have aggressively targeted a handful of vulnerable Democrats in the Senate, which appears unlikely to change hands.
And established Republicans, including former presidential candidate Senator John McCain, have faced their own challenge in the form of arch-conservative “Tea Party” voters pushing their own candidates in the battles that will decide the party’s candidates in November.
In Obey’s district, Republican hopes hung on Sean Duffy, 38, a prosecutor and former MTV reality show star.
“I think that my district is ready for somebody new, to make a fresh start,” said Obey, who fired a rhetorical broadside at Duffy’s prospects.
“There isn’t a chance of a snowball in Hades of that progressive congressional district electing someone who is a poor imitation of George Bush’s policies on a bad day,” he said.