Rep. Dav

e Weldon (R-Fla.), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee in his seventh term,


Jan. 25 he will not run for re-election.

The announcement by Weldon,

who represents an

area that includes many workers from Cape Canaveral, caught aerospace lobbyists and others who watch the Washington scene by surprise. Weldon’s office issued a press statement saying the former medical doctor wanted to return to his practice “and devote more time to his family.”

James Muncy, a lobbyist and former Republican staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives, said Weldon “has been a creative and dedicated servant of that district.” Muncy said he believed Weldon had been frustrated with trying to find ways to manage the work-force transition from the shuttle to Orion programs that looms as a major challenge for NASA and for the Cape Canaveral area. Even though many of his constituents worked on the shuttle, Muncy said Weldon never opposed other, newer programs that might have been seen as threats to the shuttle’s primacy.

Nevertheless, in December,

Weldon introduced legislation that would authorize NASA to spend an additional $3.7 billion to pay for two additional shuttle flights per year after the shuttle is scheduled to retire in 2010.

Replacing Weldon’s influence on space issues will not be easy since the GOP lawmaker was both a senior member of Congress and held a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.

Weldon made the decision to resign at least several weeks ago, according to his press spokesman Jeremy Steffens. He told Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House majority leader, he would not run at least two weeks ago, Steffens told Space News

in a Jan. 25 telephone interview. For the remainder of his term,

Weldon will continue to push for NASA to get increased funding

to guarantee the shuttle’s safety, Steffens


also said the arrest of Weldon’s 21-year-old daughter on a misdemeanor assault charge in Florida’s Brevard County just hours before the announcement was completely coincidental and not at all related to the congressman’s decision to not seek re-election.

Weldon was first elected in 1994, part of the GOP wave that swept former House Speaker Newt Gingrich into power. A proud social conservative, Weldon’s initial power base was the Space Coast Family Forum, which he co-founded.