Redistricting has claimed another congressional incumbent in California. Veteran Congressman David Dreier has announced he won’t run for re-election.
The San Gabriel Valley Republican is the seventh member of California’s congressional delegation to announce his retirement. Dreier will be missed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The announcement had been expected for months, but Dreier still surprised Capitol Hill by breaking the news on the House floor.
"We all know this institution has an abysmally low approval rating and the American people are asking for change in Congress," Dreier said, "and so I am announcing I will leave the Congress at the end of this year."
Dreier came to Congress in 1981, a 28-year-old Claremont McKenna grad swept into office in the election that brought Ronald Reagan to the White House. The San Dimas Republican became chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee in 1999. The committee acts as traffic cop, deciding which amendments will be allowed to be debated and voted on the House floor.
“David Dreier is a great patriot and dedicated public servant whose retirement will be a loss for the people’s House," House Speaker John Boehner said. "A skillful legislator, David has played a key role in cutting wasteful spending, passing job-creating free trade agreements, strengthening our national defense and making the House more open to the American people."
On a personal note, Boehner added, "I personally have long considered David to be a good friend and trusted counselor. I know these sentiments are shared by members on both sides of the aisle, who respect David's intellect and sense of fairness."
Democrat Mike Honda of San Jose says Dreier’s amiable personality made him a good fit on a committee where often the answer to the minority party is “no.” Honda says Dreier was "always a gentleman, especially when he disagrees with you, but when he does that in committee when I go before him, he makes it OK, so you don’t feel bad, you’re let down nicely and easily."
When it comes to his work as Rules chairman, Boehner said, "[Dreier] has overseen a sea change in how the institution operates, from installing cameras in the committee's hearing room to passing reforms that will long set the standard for transparency and accountability."
Republican Buck McKeon says Dreier flew out to campaign for him when he first ran for Congress and was one of the first congressmen he ever met. McKeon says Dreier will be sorely missed, not just for his work on the Rules Committee, but in his other job as chairman of California’s Republican delegation.
McKeon says Dreier kept trying to get the entire state delegation to work together. "It’s pretty hard, because probably you’ve got some of the most conservative members in the Congress in California and the most liberal. So that’s hard to pull them together. But he tried, and I think he always was in the forefront of trying to do that."
Dreier spoke about working across the aisle in his resignation speech on the House floor. "I wanted to work with, not just my Republican colleagues, but my Democratic colleagues as well, working in a bipartisan way to accomplish a number of things." Dreier cited bipartisan agreements to cut domestic spending, pass a trio of free trade agreements and work together to strengthen legislative bodies overseas.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein says she admires Dreier, calling him “fair” and “direct” without chicanery. "He’s not a right wing reactionary. He’s a problem solver."
Feinstein lamented the retirement of another Republican colleague who wasn’t afraid to work across the aisle, Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. Feinstein says the loss of both meant fewer opportunities for bipartisan cooperation.
Dreier’s departure was predicted when California’s citizen-drawn redistricting maps were unveiled.
UC Berkeley Professor Bruce Cain says his seat was taken apart and the pieces that remained were heavily Democratic and heavily Latino, a trend expected to continue in years to come. "Demography is fate when it’s overwhelmingly a minority seat," Cain said.
Dreier will serve out his term until the end of this year. He hasn’t disclosed his post-retirement plans, although he says he will follow the advice of President James Madison: leave Capitol Hill and live with the laws passed by Congress.