In fact, Dicks has been dealing since before he was sworn in.
A staffer to former Senate Appropriations Chairman Warren Magnuson (D-Wash.), he knew before he entered Congress in 1977 that he would have to secure choice subcommittees to have an immediate effect.
Telling one of his favorite stories, he said he introduced a plan to add seats to some Appropriations subcommittees and remove seats from others, so his favored Interior and Environment and Energy and Water Development subpanels would have room for him.
“I’m walking over in the tunnel on the way over, and I hear, ‘Hey, you Dicks?’ I turned around. It was Jack Murtha,” Dicks said of the notoriously gruff, late Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania.
“He says, ‘Who in the hell do you think you are? The first day of this committee, you’re not even sworn into Congress yet and you’re going to come in here and change the size and ratio of the subcommittees?’ And I said, ‘Sir, all four subcommittee chairmen have agreed that it’s a good idea.’ I said, ‘I did do the Appropriations work for Sen. Magnuson.’”
“‘Oh, you’re Maggie’s guy,’” Murtha replied, as Dicks recalls. “‘Oh that’s different. No, I get it, I’m with you. Don’t worry about it. Tell the Senator hello,’” Dicks remembers, his face flushed, laughing riotously.
A member of the Appropriations Committee for his entire 36 years on Capitol Hill, Dicks is best known for bringing home the greenbacks, often in the form of defense contracts for longtime state employer Boeing Co., earning him the nickname “the Representative from Boeing.”
“I was here at a good time because I could do a lot for my district and I did, and I’m proud of every one of the earmarks I’ve offered,” said Dicks, who took over the Subcommittee on Defense gavel when Murtha died.
Having spent his whole career on the Interior subcommittee, Dicks worked to clean up Washington’s Puget Sound and the state’s environment.
And during an earmark ban, he said, it’s even more important to have returned regular order to the committee, a feat he said he regrets Democrats did not accomplish when they were in power; this makes his short list of regrets, along with his votes for Reagan-era tax cuts and the Iraq War.
“It got to be so easy just to say, ‘It’s too hard, we’re not going to have markups because we don’t want to make any tough votes,’” he said. “I just don’t believe in that. I think you’re sent here to make tough votes.”
No doubt, Dicks will have a few more of those before his time in D.C. is done, with spending bills and a busy lame-duck agenda left to go.
But without a re-election campaign to think about for the first time in more than three decades, Dicks is ready to relax and is taking advantage of the light Congressional calendar to do so.
“I’m not big on these recesses. I think we should be here doing the people’s business, but if we’re going to have them and I’m not running, we’ve got a few fishing trips planned,” he said.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.