Powerful public broadcasting supporter retiring from House

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Democratic Rep. David Obey, a longtime pubcasting champion and chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, is leaving Congress after this term. The Capital Times in his home state of Wisconsin called him Congress’s “most powerful populist.” In 2005, Obey co-sponsored an amendment to restore the $400 million CPB appropriation for the next year that that the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee wanted cut (Current, June 27, 2005). The previous month, he had joined fellow Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan to complain about CPB Board Chair Kenneth Tomlinson’s probe of alleged liberal bias in pubcasting (Current, May 16, 2005), saying, “the law says the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is supposed to keep its cotton-picking nose out of programming and out of politics.” In his announcement yesterday that he will not seek reelection, Obey said: “I am, frankly, weary of having to beg on a daily basis that both parties recognize that we do no favor for the country if we neglect to make the long-term investments in education, science, health, and energy that are necessary to modernize our economy and decline to raise the revenue needed to pay for those crucial investments. I do not want to be in a position as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of producing and defending lowest common denominator legislation that is inadequate to that task and, given the mood of the country, that is what I would have to do if I stayed.”

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