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David Ross "Dave" Obey (pronounced Obee) (born October 3, 1938) is a Wisconsin politician. He has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 1969, representing ( map). The district includes much of the northwestern portion of the state, including Wausaumarker and Superiormarker.


Obey was born in Okmulgee, Oklahomamarker, but has lived in Wausau for over half a century. He graduated from Wausau East High School. He received his bachelors degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker. Before serving in Congress, Obey worked as a real estate broker.

Obey grew up as a Republican. However, he was so angered after seeing one of his teachers falsely branded a Communist by backers of Joseph McCarthy that he became a Democrat in the mid-1950s, sometime between the ages of 16 and 18.

He was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1963 and served there until 1969, when he was elected to the House to replace eight-term incumbent Republican Melvin R. Laird, who was appointed Secretary of Defense under President Richard Nixon. Obey, only 30 when he was elected, became the youngest member of Congress upon taking his seat, as well as the first Democrat ever to represent the district. He was elected to a full term in 1970 and has been reelected 18 times. He has only faced serious opposition twice. In 1972, during his bid for a second full term, his district was merged with the neighboring 10th District of Republican Alvin O'Konski, a 15-term incumbent. However, Obey retained 60 percent of his former territory, and was handily reelected. In 1994, he only won reelection by seven points.

He is now the longest-serving member of either house of Congress in Wisconsin's history. He is also the third-longest serving member of the House, after fellow Democrats John Dingell and John Conyers.

In Congress, Obey chaired the commission to write the House's Code of Ethics. Among the reforms he instituted was one requiring members of the House to disclose their personal financial dealings so the public would be made aware of any potential conflicts of interest. Obey is currently the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; he briefly chaired this committee from 1994 to 1995 and served as its ranking Democrat from 1995 to 2007. He also chairs its Subcommittee on Labor.

Obey is one of the most liberal members of the House; he considers himself a progressive in the tradition of Robert La Follette. Obey has risen to the position of fifth ranking House Democrat since his party retook control of Congress.

Obey also is remembered for being the congressman who intervened when fellow Democrat Harold Ford, Jr. approached Republican Jean Schmidt on the House floor in 2005. Ford was upset because Schmidt had called Congressman John Murtha a coward for advocating a redeployment of American forces in Iraqmarker.

Obey holds a critical view of the mainstream American news media, as evidenced by his words on June 13, 2008, upon the sudden death of NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert. Obey said of Russert: "Tim Russert's death is not just a body blow for NBC News; it is a body blow for the nation and for anyone who cherishes newsmen and women who have remained devoted to reporting hard news in an era increasingly consumed by trivia."

Committee assignments

As chairman of the full Appropriations Committee, Obey also serves as an ex officio member on all subcommittees of which he is not already a full member.

Election history


Confrontation with Maxine Waters

On June 25, 2009, Obey got into a fight on the House floor with fellow Democratic Congressman Maxine Waters of Californiamarker. After the House floor had largely cleared following a series of votes, Obey and Waters split apart from a heated conversation about an earmark requested by Waters for a public school employment training center in Los Angeles that was named after herself. Obey rejected the earmark as violating policies against so-called "monuments to me." Waters revised her request to go to the school district's whole adult employment training program, so the district could decide whether the money would go to the school named after herself. Nonetheless, Obey let it be known that the earmark would be denied. She approached him and complained, shouting, "You’re out of line!" while walking down toward the well in the House chambers. Obey shouted back, "You’re out of line!" before turning and walking away, but stopped, turned back toward Waters, and shouted, "I'm not going to approve that earmark!" He again turned away while Waters huddled with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and was overheard saying, "He touched me first." before being escorted into the cloakroom. Obey went to talk with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer when Waters briefly returned again, telling her colleagues, "He touched me." before returning to the cloakroom. An aide to Waters said that Obey had pushed her while Obey's spokesperson, Ellis Brachman, placed the blame on Waters for escalating the situation.




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