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Associated Press

Washington Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks, the top Democrat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, says he’ll retire at the end of the year after 18 terms in the House.

Dicks says he and his wife have decided to “change gears and enjoy life at a different pace.”

The 71-year-old lawmaker has earned a reputation as a staunch advocate of the Pentagon and is a defender of the Boeing Co. and its unionized workforce. The company employs thousands of people in his district.

Dicks took over as the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee last year and fought vigorously to block Republicans from using the annual spending bills to attack Obama administration priorities on the environment, labor and energy.