Moran Seeks 12th Term, Faces Newcomer in Primary
Northern Virginia congressman says his seniority benefits constituents.
Since 1990, when Rep. Jim Moran was first elected to Congress, ‘80s music has lost its popularity, come back in style and is on its way out again. A lot can happen in 22 years, the time Moran has spent serving in Congress.
It’s the seniority gained over that time, said Moran, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 8th District, that allows him to influence legislation beneficial to the people of Northern Virginia and is the reason why he deserves a 12th term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
While Moran’s critics say a fresh face is needed in Congress, he maintains that his seniority works for the benefit of his constituency.
“For lack of a better method, people’s ability to influence the priorities and the direction of the Congress is largely dependent upon their seniority,” he said. “People who don’t have that experience are more dependent on lobbyists, staff that have been here longer periods of time and the senior members, who have their chairmanships and are who able to decide what the priorities are and how the money is distributed and where it goes.”
Moran, 67, who faces political newcomer Bruce Shuttleworth in Tuesday's Democratic primary, is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, serves as the ranking member on the Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment and also serves on the Defense and Military Construction subcommittees. He also holds a leadership role in the Democratic Caucus as a member of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
Moran said although he could earn more working in the private sector, he’s reached a point in his career in Congress in which his seniority gives him influence that many members don’t have. That seniority has allowed him to secure funding for transportation-related projects, provisions benefiting federal employees and legislation protecting the environment.
“I know that somebody that replaced me wouldn’t be able to get on (the House Appropriations Committee), wouldn’t be able to deliver what I’m able to for the district,” he said. “So I know it seems immodest, but there’s no question in my mind about it.”
Moran has said his position on the Appropriations Committee, for instance, helped with the politics surrounding the successful fight to keep the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in Arlington County, despite fierce competition from other locations.
Northern Virginia Legislation
Moran prides himself on voting against Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) recommendations in 2005. Claiming new traffic at the BRAC campus at Mark Center would clog local roads, he succeeded in securing a 2,000-space parking cap at Mark Center and $20 million in short- and mid-term transportation improvements in the immediate area.
Moran maintains BRAC should have relocated federal employees to a Metro-accessible location.
“I argued that there was no good cause for moving 20,000 federal employees out of commercial office space in Rosslyn and Crystal City and forcing them to go on to a base,” he said. “They were using Metro. The office buildings where they were located had access to Metro.
“But [Defense] Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld made a decision that was basically unilateral and, I thought, less than thoughtful, to take those folks out of office buildings and cram them on to military bases.”
Moran also helped secure $180 million for the future widening of Route 1 at Fort Belvoir to handle an expansion in personnel at the main post and the new hospital. Controversy has erupted over the possibility the road could run through Woodlawn Stables, and Moran said he’s concerned about the possible loss of historic property, including that of a local church.
“I don’t want that to happen,” he said. “So I’m inclined to support Supervisor (Gerry) Hyland’s position, which is that it should go straight through so as not to disrupt the stable activity and the land a lot of people use for riding and recreation.”
Moran points to his help in improving pay and other benefits for the 65,000 federal employees who live in the 8th District and more than 110,000 federal employees who work there. He has introduced the Federal Employees Leave Transfer Act of 2011 and the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act to ensure federal employees receive retroactive pay during a government shutdown.
In 2009, he succeeded in helping pass a law that allows Federal Employees Retirement System employees to use their unused, accumulated sick leave in the computation of annuities upon retirement. He also spearheaded legislation to allow Civil Service Retirement System workers to phase-down to part-time status at the end of their careers without reducing their final annuities and pensions.
Moran also helped put a provision into law that allows federal employee commuters to use a mass transit benefit of $100 per month.
“We have consistently fought for better pay and benefits for federal workers, because the whole population depends on the ability of the federal government to hire the best and brightest people, and you have to pay them in order to be able to do that,” he said.
Moran likes to talk about the environment, too. During this fiscal year, he opposed more than 20 anti-environmental and anti-conservation provisions, including bills allowing uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and exempting oil companies from Clean Air Act restrictions. He’s also taken stands against mountaintop removal mining and for protecting endangered species.
Making Congress Work
In an interview with Patch, Moran addressed allegations from author Peter Schweizer in the 2011 book “Throw Them All Out” that Moran misused information from a Sept. 16, 2008, briefing by the Treasury secretary and Federal Reserve chairman, who warned of an impending financial crisis. Schweizer claimed Moran dumped shares in more than a dozen major companies the following day in what he called a case of political insider trading.
Moran strongly refuted those allegations, saying he didn’t attend the meeting, and noting the stock was part of a mutual fund sold by his wife, a corporate businesswoman.
“The idea of her consulting with me is just silly,” he said. “It’s kind of insulting to her. So, I didn’t know and wouldn’t have had any reason to know that she was selling a mutual fund.”
Also, the congressman noted, the fragile state of the economy was well-broadcast in the newspapers at the time. Earlier this year, his staff noted, he also voted in favor of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act, of which he was a co-sponsor.
Moran bemoaned the current partisan gridlock in Congress but laid no blame on Democrats for the impasse. In any case, an independent candidate, such as opponent Jason Howell, would have to choose a party with which to caucus, he noted.
“I’ve never seen a more closed-minded, obstructionist Congress in my life,” he said. “I never thought I would see it. So I’m just trying to protect the interests of Northern Virginia until we can get a more rational, more responsible Congress. When that happens, then I’ll be in a position to do much more in terms of what I think needs to be done.”
The ‘Energizer Bunny’
Moran, said Mike Lieberman, who chairs the Arlington County Democratic Committee, is like the Energizer Bunny—he works hard to be present in the community, to get to know his constituents to find out what matters most to them and advocate for them in Congress.
“He’s a fighter,” Lieberman said. “He believes very strongly in what I consider to be core Democratic values, and he’s not afraid to mix it up for things he believes in. … He’s an unabashed progressive.”
Dan Steen, a corporate lawyer and former chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, has helped campaign for Moran in past years. Moran has his vote again this year, Steen said.
“He’s an effective legislator on things that matter,” he said. “We need more Jim Morans, frankly, in my view. Secondly, everyone knows Jim’s a very passionate guy. So he combines being a passionate legislator with caring for things that I care about as a progressive.”
If Moran beats Shuttleworth in Tuesday's primary, he’ll compete for his seat against Republican J. Patrick Murray and Howell. According to the latest data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Moran has raised more than $720,000 in the race to date. Shuttleworth has raised approximately $76,000; Murray has raised $71,000. Howell has raised only slightly more than $5,000.