In the last weeks of his life, Tom Foley was watching the brinkmanship in the nation’s capital with worry -- and a few thoughts about how to fix it.
Two fellow Democrats, Sen. Patty Murray and former Rep. Norm Dicks, talked to Foley separately on the phone in recent weeks. Dicks said the former House speaker was deeply concerned that Congress should keep the government running and raise the limit on U.S. debt.
“Immediately,” Murray said of their conversation, “he starts talking about how we have to work really hard to solve this crisis and giving me his advice.”
His counsel then and always was to find common ground with adversaries, Murray said.
“Tom Foley believed when the elections were over you put the country’s interest first,” said Dicks, a supporter of Foley’s in the House.
“The first time I met Foley he came to the University of Washington Law School and he gave an incredible speech to the law school, and afterward we had a reception,” recalled Dicks, a law student at the time. “... He noticed I had a pack of Winstons in my pocket and he said, ‘Hey, can I borrow a cigarette?’”
They would have many more smokes together. Dicks came to the Senate as an aide and then won a seat in the House. He said Foley helped him on that first campaign and then helped elevate him to a spot on the coveted Appropriations Committee, whose members could direct federal money home to their districts.
Foley also helped Dicks win federal approval of the $162 million agreement that settled the Puyallup Tribe’s claims to thousands of acres of prime Pierce County land.
At Dicks’ request, Foley promoted the Congress-passed Puyallup settlement in a meeting with then-President George H.W. Bush, Dicks said. Afterward, Dicks asked him how it went. “He said, ‘The president said, he can’t pronounce it, but he’ll sign it.’”