Earlier today, news broke that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will be retiring at the end of his current term, apparently leaving his seat to former GOP presidential nominee and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
But Hatch isn’t the only Republican retiring from Congress: The Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito exclusively broke news earlier that Rep. Bill Shuster, the powerful chairman of the House Transportation Committee, would also be leaving at the end of this term.
Over to Zito:
Rep. Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, will not seek re-election in November, telling the Washington Examiner that he wants to focus exclusively on working with President Trump to pass a massive infrastructure bill before he retires.
The congressman and his father have held this House seat between them since 1973.
He has chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for five years, but will step down this year under rules that limit committee leaders to three consecutive terms.
Shuster is one of several veteran house GOP committee chairmen whose terms expire simultaneously. Others include fellow Pennsylvania delegation member Charlie Dent, a House Appropriations subcommittee chairman.
Although the House Democrats, under Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, naturally prefer to contest an open seat than one filled by a GOP incumbent, the Shuster seat is likely to remain in Republican hands. All its counties; Bedford, Blair, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, and Indiana; and those with only portions in his district, Cambria, Greene, Huntingdon, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland; voted strongly for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
As this suggests, Shuster’s real competition usually comes in the GOP primary rather than in the general election, although this was not the case in 2016, when Art Halverson, who usually challenges him as a Republican, instead ran against him as a Democrat. Shuster took over from his father as the district’s congressman in a special election in 2001.
Shuster evidently wants to deliver the infrastructure bill as his final public service before retiring, but notes that his signature initiative, an effort to transfer control of the nation’s air traffic control system to a corporate board where big airlines and unions would exert greater influence than other stakeholders, may or may not make it into the package.
“Who knows?” Shuster told Zito, who notes that the legislation’s supporters and detractors are bipartisan. “We’ll wait and see what happens,”said Shuster.
Either way, it looks like Shuster’s multiple-time Tea Party primary challenger, Halvorson, who has made an issue of Shuster’s pursuit of the scheme given his romantic ties to the lead lobbyist for the trade group that most strongly backs it, will lack a key talking point in his 2018 race.
Halvorson announced today that he would run to replace Shuster and that if elected, he would serve no more than 6 years and would refuse a congressional pension.