Moran retirement adds to Northern Virginia’s loss of clout on Capitol Hill

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Northern Virginia faces a major loss of clout on Capitol Hill as Democratic Rep. James P. Moran confirmed Wednesday that he will join GOP Rep. Frank R. Wolf in heading for the exits after this term.

The retirement means Northern Virginia will lose nearly 60 years of congressional seniority — and two high-ranking members of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations — at the end of the year.

“After 35 years as a public servant, as Mayor of Alexandria, and for the past 23 as a member of the House of Representatives, it’s time to close this chapter of my life and move on to the next challenge,” Mr. Moran said in a statement.

His decision is noteworthy for the Old Dominion because it comes on the heels of Mr. Wolf’s announcement in December that he, too, would not seek re-election after 17 terms.

“It’s a big loss for Northern Virginia,” said Mark J. Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University. “These are two members [with] institutional memory, connections to Capitol Hill, seniority on appropriations — all of these were used by these two members to benefit Northern Virginia, and it’s going to be hard to replace.”

Jim Corcoran, president of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, thanked Mr. Moran and Mr. Wolf on Wednesday on behalf of the chamber and the county and said the two retirements will have a definite effect.

“The real loss, in addition to their tremendous personal values, is the seniority part of it, there’s no question about it,” Mr. Corcoran said. “When you have fixtures there in Congress, you just kind of expect them to be there forever.”

Mr. Wolf, a Republican who represents much of the region’s outer suburbs, said in a statement Wednesday that Mr. Moran isn’t just a colleague, but a friend, and “has been a true partner in working for Northern Virginia and will be missed.”

“He and I have worked side by side on a variety of projects and issues over the years, from getting funding for the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge to improvements on the George Washington Parkway to fighting for federal employees,” Mr. Wolf said.

Mr. Moran’s heavily Democratic 8th District includes Arlington County, the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County. Pundits have suggested that Mr. Wolf’s seat could flip in the fall elections, but Democrats have a more secure hold on Mr. Moran’s seat. The congressman won his last re-election bid with 65 percent of the vote and took 61 percent of the vote in 2010, when three of his fellow Virginia Democrats were defeated.

He has championed the environment, including issues affecting the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, and federal and military employees, many of whom live in his district. He served as mayor of Alexandria from 1984 to 1990, when he ran for Congress.

“[B]ecause of Jim’s leadership, our brave service members and veterans are better protected, our civil service is stronger, and our air and water are cleaner and safer,” President Obama said in a statement Wednesday thanking Mr. Moran for his service.

After the partial shutdown of the federal government in October, Mr. Moran penned an open letter to the federal civil service thanking them for their work — and noting that he and Mr. Wolf had co-authored legislation ensuring that all federal employees receive pay for the period of the government shutdown, regardless of furlough status.

His announcement Wednesday touted his ability to bring billions of economic investment dollars to the communities that surround the nation’s capital, spurring on projects such as the Wilson Bridge and a Metro rail route to Washington Dulles International Airport.

But he also acknowledged that gridlock and dysfunction in Congress has made his job increasingly difficult in recent years and applauded an appropriations agreement blessed Wednesday by the House.

“It represents a budgetary cease-fire and I hope a historic turning point in getting this necessary funding process back on track,” he said. “I’ve seen the appropriations process at its height, and more recently its nadir. When the appropriations process is working, the government functions on behalf of the people, the economy is stronger, and the country overall becomes more inclusive, egalitarian and productive.”

Mr. Moran’s lengthy tenure was not without controversy. An outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, he was heavily criticized at the time by the White House and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, for citing the “strong support of the Jewish community” for the war in March 2003.

Mr. Moran later said he regretted the remarks and that he meant if more groups, including religious ones, were more outspoken against the war, the country wouldn’t pursue that option.

But the broader anti-war sentiment behind the remarks is consistent with Mr. Moran’s positioning to the left of many of his fellow Democrats on such issues as foreign policy, gay rights and climate change.

His tenure also was marked by a series of bizarre altercations that drew criticism from his opponents and his colleagues alike and led to charges that Mr. Moran, a former college boxer, was a bully.

In 1998, during the revelations about the president’s infidelities, he reportedly told first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton that if he were her brother, he would have punched President Clinton in the nose.

In 1995, he had to apologize after pushing Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, California Republican, out of the House floor into a cloakroom. More than a dozen Capitol Police officers were called to restore order.

Earlier that year, Mr. Moran threatened to break the nose of Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, for intimidating a federal employee during a hearing.

Nevertheless, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, a fellow Virginia Democrat, said the retirement is a loss for Congress and for the region. He called Mr. Moran a “dear friend” and a “passionate advocate for our region and for the progressive agenda, and someone who has delivered for us time and time again.”

“With our Republican colleague Frank Wolf, we’ve beat back efforts to slash Metro funding, secured federal support for Rail to Dulles, and defended federal employees from withering attacks,” Mr. Connolly said.

Mr. Corcoran applauded the Northern Virginia congressmen for their work in helping move plans forward for rail to Dulles and for pushing to lure the FBI’s headquarters to Springfield.

“Fairfax County is always going to be the best place, but seniority certainly helps,” Mr. Corcoran said. “I don’t think it was fear there of losing their seats. It was just their time.”

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