Rep. Steve LaTourette, a key ally of House Speaker John A. Boehner and one of a dwindling number of congressional GOP moderates, issued a broadside against an increasingly polarized House on Tuesday, as he formally announced he will not seek a 10th term.
News of the Ohio Republican’s decision had leaked on Monday and he acknowledged at a news conference in his Painesville district that he was leaving local Republicans in the lurch by stepping out with only 100 days left before the November election.
But he said he had come to believe the personal toll of holding office outweighed his ability to get things done in a divided and bitter Washington.
“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,” he said.
LaTourette told reporters that to rise in party ranks, politicians must now hand over “your wallet and your voting card” to party extremes and he was uninterested.
LaTourette is one of a number of lawmakers who have retired this year and voiced similar concerns about increasing partisanship. In February, Maine Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R) announced she would not seek another term in the Senate, indicating Washington’s poisonous atmosphere was making it increasingly difficult to get anything done. Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) offered similar complaints when he declined to run again, as did Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)
LaTourette said he would formally inform state officials of his decision on Aug. 8, a delay that will allow party officials to choose a Republican to face Democrat Dale Blanchard in November and skip a party primary to determine a GOP nominee.
He cited two specific issues that contributed to his decision--Congress’s struggle in passing a new highway funding bill and its failure to reach a bipartisan deficit reduction deal.
Long an advocate of increased infrastructure spending, LaTourette said he was ”horribly disappointed” in the debate over the transportation funding bill, calling it an “embarrassment” to the institution that a bipartisan bill approved by the Senate was not handily approved in the House.
A long-term funding bill ultimately passed, but only after months of internal Republican strife.
“We’re talking about about building roads and bridges for Chrissakes,” he said, adding that he had come to believe his Congressional colleagues have become “more interested in fighting with each other than getting the no-brainers done and governing.”
But he denied that his unexpected retirement came from being denied an opportunity to chair the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, calling reports that he was disappointed in his inability to get a chairmanship a “red herring.”
Despite his criticism of House operations, LaTourette offered no critique of Boehner, the fellow Ohioan who has led the House since Republicans took control in 2011. He noted that Boehner was among many who called Monday after news of his decision emerged to encourage him to rethink the decision.
And Boehner issued an effusive statement praising his long-time friend Tuesday, calling him “a close friend and an effective legislator who has served the people of Ohio with passion and unrivaled wit for nearly 20 years.”
. LaTourette has been among Congress’ most vocal detractors of a pledge signed by many Republican colleagues refusing to ever vote to raise taxes. He co-sponsored a budget framework earlier this year based on the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan that would pair spending cuts with tax hikes. The proposal only received 38 votes on the House floor.
He said he was particularly disappointed by the failure of members of both parties to make hard choices needed to reduce the deficit, including raising taxes and cutting entitlements.
“The time has come for not only good politics but good policy,” he said.