Ohio Rep. Steven LaTourette said Tuesday he would not seek re-election this fall, further shrinking the ranks of moderate Republicans on Capitol Hill.
The nine-term congressman, a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), cited the hyperpartisanship in Washington as a contributing factor in making his decision to retire at the end of this term.
“The time has come for not only good politics but good policy,” he said in a press conference this morning, “I have reached the conclusion that the atmosphere today, and the reality that exists in the House of Representatives, no longer encourages the finding of common ground.”
News of LaTourette’s retirement leaked to the press on Monday, which LaTourette said prompted phone calls of both understanding, and urging reconsideration of his decision. He said the current atmosphere on Capitol Hill had taken a personal toll, suggesting that his difficulty in climbing the ranks was a result of him voting “funny” compared to the rest of the GOP conference.
GOP aides also said that the fact that LaTourette would likely not be the next chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee could have contributed to his decision. That seat will likely be given to Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), who is not only younger than LaTourette, but has also been serving for almost half the time.
"The expectation is if you want to go up in the ranks of either party you gotta give them your wallet and your voting card,” LaTrourette said, “I’m not interested in giving them my wallet or my voting card.”
LaTourette joins a growing group of moderates who are leaving long careers on Capitol Hill because of the changing culture involved in today’s politics. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), one of the Senate’s most established moderates, announced her retirement in February, citing the inability to compromise as a reason for leaving.
The outgoing Ohio congressman pointed to the House’s failure to produce a long-term transportation bill as a prime example of Congress’s inability to accomplish what he called “no brainer” legislation. LaTourette called the passage of a two year bill that originated in the Senate “an embarrassment to the House of Representatives.”
He also cited the nation’s $15 trillion debt as a reason why he thought compromise was necessary. “We are a hiccup away from being Europe, we are a hiccup away from being Greece,” he said, “Getting it right means on my side of the aisle we have to talk about revenues and on the other side of the isle we have to talk about entitlements.”
LaTourette’s retirement comes as a bold reminder of the power of Tea Party, an ascendant force that has pressured moderates into more loyalty. LaTourette had also publicly criticized the no-new-tax pledge authored by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, and signed by many GOP lawmakers.
In March of this year, LaTourette was the main Republican backer of a budget based on the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson plan, which uses cuts as well as tax increases to decrease the deficit, a move seen by many as a break from the current Republican agenda That budget received only 38 votes, the fewest of the seven budgets which were introduced.
LaTourette’s announcement fueled immediate speculation about the competitiveness of his seat in November. Boehner was quick to say in a statement that “Republicans are in good position to hold this seat,” but Democrats argue that it could be a possible pick-up in their drive to win back the majority.
“This is the second Republican from Speaker Boehner’s own delegation jumping ship on his sinking Tea Party Republican Majority,” DCCC Spokesman, Jesse Ferguson said, “When Speaker Boehner’s own friends don’t want to stay in support of his out-of-touch agenda, there’s no reason independent voters will support protecting millionaires at the expense of the middle class.”