GOP appropriators say Obey retirement shows 'change' is coming

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee said the retirement of committee chairman Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) shows that the Democratic majority is in danger.

"It's the end of an era, and it will also set in a certain amount of panic on the House floor," said Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). "He's one of the lead generals, and to have him fall shows that a change election is coming."

Kirk said he thought Obey, known for his intelligence and his fiery personality, would "be in there to fight" for his seat. 

"It shows that senior Democrats now think they're going to lose their reelection," Kirk said.

Obey said he wouldn't seek a 21st House term on Wednesday.

Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Wis.) said Obey may be "the first of many dominoes to fall."

"I don't think the chairman of the full committee walks away after 42 years if he's not feeling well, the election isn't going well and/or he's worried about the majority," LaTourette said. "It will be a big loss. He's a smart man."

Republicans had charged Obey with overseeing a turn toward partisanship on the Appropriations Committee in recent years. GOP leaders protested last year that they received few chances to amend spending bills on the House floor, while Obey and Democrats noted that they had many chances to offer amendments while the measures were moving through the committee.

Kirk blamed House Democratic leaders as much as Obey for the lack of bipartisanship.

"The committee has lost control of the federal budget and ... has fallen more and more under the control of the Speaker," Kirk said.

The ranking Republican appropriator, Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), praised Obey after he announced his retirement.

“There are few people in this institution who have served their district with such a long and distinguished tenure as David Obey," Lewis said. "While we may not always agree on policy or process, David has always been a determined and dedicated colleague and has proven to be a leader of historic proportions – both as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee, and as the longest ever serving member of Congress from the great state of Wisconsin. I wish David and his wife Joan well as they begin a new chapter in their lives."