California Rep. Dreier announces plan to retire

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By DONNA CASSATA and MICHAEL R. BLOOD, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rep. David Dreier, the powerful chairman of the House Rules Committee, announced on the House floor Wednesday that he will not seek another term. He becomes the latest lawmaker to decide to retire after recast district boundaries in his home state left him with dimmed re-election prospects.

Dreier, a Republican, is the sixth California House member to announce a planned exit from Congress at the end of the term. The departures open the way for new faces at a time when the public views Capitol Hill with disdain, but they also will deprive the nation's most populous state of decades of congressional seniority that helped line up billions of dollars in federal aid and projects.

"This is a massive blow to California. There is no way around it," said Jim Brulte, a former Republican leader in the state Senate. "When it comes to the Congress, seniority is almost everything."

Dreier's retirement would end a three-decade-long career representing his Los Angeles County district that began in 1980, the year Ronald Reagan entered the White House. Now 59, Dreier was a 28-year-old administrator at Claremont McKenna College when he entered the House.

In an era of deep division between the major parties, Dreier was respected on both sides of the political aisle for his knowledge of the granular points of lawmaking. House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut issued a statement calling Dreier a friend and "a good ally on a broad range of subjects."

Dreier said he considered leaving three years ago but chose to return to the House to focus on cutting spending, getting free trade bills passed and enhancing national security.

He urged his fellow lawmakers to work to find ways to build bipartisan consensus.

"I have always believed that our efforts must be rooted in our pursuit of a free economy, personal freedom, limited government and a strong national defense," Dreier said. "Others may take a different view. These differences demand a passionate debate, but that debate must ultimately arrive at consensus."

In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner credited his friend for his role in free-trade agreements and, as rules chairman, making the House more transparent by overseeing the installation of cameras in the committee's hearing room.

Dreier's decision was not unexpected, after a once-a-decade redrawing of district lines placed his San Dimas home in a district favorable to Democrats. For the first time, California district lines were drawn by a citizens commission, which was created by voters to strip authority for shaping political districts from the Legislature.

Other state members of Congress headed for the exit include Republican Reps. Jerry Lewis, Elton Gallegly and Wally Herger, and Democrats Dennis Cardoza and Lynn Woolsey. Rep. Bob Filner, a Democat, is running for mayor of San Diego.

A total of 21 Democrats and 16 Republicans in the House have announced that they would retire or seek another office.

Dreier took over as head of the Rules Committee, which determines how bills will be handled on the House floor, in 1999, and over the next several years he was a top adviser to then-Speaker Dennis Hastert. He lost his chairmanship when the Democrats won control of the House in 2006, but returned to the position when Republicans regained the majority in 2010.

Despite his authority in Washington, Dreier had a low profile in his home region, where politics is often overshadowed by the entertainment industry.

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Cassata reported from Washington.

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