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John Walter Olver (born September 3, 1936), Americanmarker politician, has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 1991, representing , a primarily rural district that makes up most of Western Massachusetts.

Education and family life

Olver was born in Honesdale, Pennsylvaniamarker. He earned a B.S. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institutemarker at the age of 18, an M.S. from Tufts Universitymarker, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology marker. He served as a chemistry professor at the Franklin Technical Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, at MITmarker and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

John Olver is married to Rose Olver, a Professor of Psychology and Women's and Gender Studies at Amherst Collegemarker. They have one daughter, Martha. The family has lived in Amherst, Massachusettsmarker since 1963.

Political career

He served two terms as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1969 to 1973, and then nine terms in the Massachusetts Senate from 1973 to 1991.

On February 18, 1991, 1st District Congressman Silvio Conte died just one month after taking office for his 17th term. That June, Olver, who had just been sworn in for his 10th term in the state senate, narrowly defeated Republican Steve Pierce in a special election for the seat, becoming the first Democrat to win the seat since it changed from being the in 1895. He won election to a full term by 8 points in 1992 and has only faced one truly serious challenge since, from future Acting Governor Jane Swift in 1996 (the same year Governor William Weld gave Senator John Kerry the closest race a Democratic senator has faced in Massachusetts in almost two decades). Olver defeated Swift by a 53% to 47% margin. The 1st District had long been considered the most Republican district in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, but rapidly swung into the Democratic column in the 1990s. For example, in 1994, a year in which district after district fell to the Republicans nationally, Olver ran unopposed.

In 2008, Olver beat both his primary and general election challengers.

In July 2009 Massachusetts Democrat and former state senator Andrea Nuciforo filed to run for Olver's seat sparking speculation of Olver's retirement.

Committee Assignments

Party leadership

  • Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus


Olver has been critical of the United States lack of involvement with the genocide in Darfurmarker. Olver was one of five members of Congress arrested April 28, 2006 after protesting outside the Sudanesemarker Embassy.

He was one of the 31 who objected in the House to the counting of the electoral votes from Ohiomarker in the United States presidential election, 2004.

Olver is one of the co-sponsors of , the US National Health Care Act, or Expanded & Improved Medicare for All, which introduces a universal health insurance program with single-payer financing. In addition to supporting different pieces of liberal healthcare reform legislation in the House, Olver has also strongly supported allowing federal funds related to health care programs to fund abortion operations. For example, Olver voted against a proposed amendment to House Resolution 3962 which prevented federal funds from being spent on abortion operations. [51928]

In addition to supporting the inclusion of coverage for abortions in healthcare legislation, Olver has consistently supported pro-choice legislation in the house and has received very favorable ratings from pro-choice interest groups such as the NARAL Pro-Choice America, which gave Olver a rating of 100. [51929][51930]Although Olver opposes making all abortions after the first trimester illegal, he does not believe that abortions should be unconditionally legal, and opposes the legality of “Dilation and extraction or ‘partial-birth’ abortion procedures.”[51931]

With regards to United States involvement in Iraq, Olver has consistently opposed a United States military presence in Iraq, and voted against the 2002 authorization for the use of force in Iraq at the beginning of U.S. military engagement with the country. [51932] Olver has since advocated for the quick removal of U.S. troops from the country, and has consistently voted no on proposals in the House to increase funding for U.S. military operations in Iraq and the deployment of more U.S. troops in Iraq.[51933] In a position paper written on the subject of the United States presence in Iraq, Olver stated that he believes that the United States should seek out a political solution in cooperation with the States neighboring Iraq, such as Iran and Syria, rather than pursuing a strategy based primarily on military means in order to create a stable and democratic Iraq.[51934]

With regards to immigration policy, Olver has stated that he supports efforts to reduce the number of immigrants entering the United States illegally, but that he believes that rather than simply increasing punishments for those who enter the country illegally and for those who employ illegal immigrants, the U.S. Government needs to reform immigration so as to allow qualified foreigners to easily acquire guest worker status in the U.S.[51935] Olver has consistently voted against legislation that would cut off public benefits to illegal and legal immigrants, has voted against legislation aimed at erecting physical barriers to stop illegal immigration, and has voted against legislation aimed at making English the official language of the U.S.[51936] Olver also believes that illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States need to be provided with a pathway to citizenship, and that these immigrants should not have to return to their countries of origin before obtaining citizenship.[51937]

Convention delegation

Olver was a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He announced his commitment to Senator Barack Obama on June 3rd, 2008.

Ideological ratings


Political Opponents as "Jihadists"

Olver called Republicans "Jihadists" during budget negotiations in late July, 2007. Congressional Quarterly reported his statements:

And while Democrats rebuff Republicans and their accusations of shutdown politics, the majority is throwing some brickbats of its own.

“They’ve been stalling,’’ said John W. Olver, D-Mass., chairman of the House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee. “They are nihilists. They are jihadists.”


  2. Jim Doyle, Five members of Congress arrested over Sudan protest, San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2006. Accessed 25 September 2006.
  4. Alan K. Ota and Bart Jansen, Democrats Say GOP Complaint of Spending ‘Shutdown’ Strategy Doesn’t Add Up, Congressional Quarterly, July 27, 2007

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