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House Rules Committee chairman to retire from Congress

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Congressman David Dreier, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, said on Wednesday he would retire from Capitol Hill at the end of the year rather than seek reelection after three decades in office.

Dreier is the sixth member of California's congressional team heading for the door after an overhaul of state political boundaries left many incumbents in both parties facing difficult or uncertain races in reconstituted districts.

Half of the California lawmakers giving up their seats, including Dreier, 59, are Republicans. The three others are Democrats.

The result is expected to be the biggest shakeup of California's 53-member delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives in 20 years, with Democrats seen likely to emerge with a net increase in seats, political pundits have said.

Dreier's 26th congressional district had encompassed the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley northeast of Los Angeles, spanning parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

But his home territory was carved into three pieces that were absorbed into newly redrawn neighboring districts where he would face an uphill fight to win re-election, said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican political consultant and publisher of the California Target Book.

"He's definitely a victim of redistricting," said Hoffenblum, adding that California's new political map, redrawn by an independent citizens' commission, has created a total of nine essentially open House seats in the state.

There had been some speculation that Dreier might mount a campaign to challenge California Senator Dianne Feinstein in the 2012 general election, but he made no mention of such a move in his statement. Hoffenblum said the filing deadline to run would be March 9.

Dreier instead referred to his intent to "follow the Madisonian directive that members of congress should one day leave office to live under the laws they passed."

Dreier, who announced his decision in Washington, became the 16th House Republican to declare they would either decline a reelection bid as their term expires this year or plan to run for another office. Twenty House Democrats have done the same.

Dreier, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, began his congressional tenure in 1981. He served as chairman of the Rules Committee from 1999 until 2007, and again since November 2010. The panel sets ground rules for consideration of each bill that goes to the House floor, including what amendments can be offered.

Contrary to the highly partisan environment that has emerged on Capitol Hill in recent years, Dreier has taken pride in his willingness as a lawmaker to seek consensus between Republicans and Democrats where possible.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro in Washington; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Cynthia Johnston)

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