Yet another sitting lawmaker is stepping down from their post citing a toxic partisan atmosphere in Washington, D.C., and his announcement was one of the most damning of modern Congressional dysfunction yet.
Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio announced his plans to retire today and not seek reelection for a tenth term. He is the second high-profile moderate Republican lawmaker to retire due to the prevailing political climate. Long time Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine is also forgoing another round on Capitol Hill for nearly identical reasons.
“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,” said Rep. LaTourette at a press conference, according to The Plain Dealer.
Rep. LaTourette's grew his reputation as a moderate Republican by diverging from his party's line on more than one occasion. Most recently, he was one of only two Republicans to vote against holding Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress. He actively opposed Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform Pledge and crafted a budget bill, which included tax increased, co-sponsored by Tennessee Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper, which received just 38 votes.
The Washington Post said the Congressman had specific complaints relating to a long term seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee:
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. “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.”
The departures of lawmakers willing to compromise, like Rep. Tourette, Sen. Snowe and others, signal a turn for both the Republican and Democratic parties, as moderate members on both sides become increasingly rare.
"The time has come for not only good politics but good policy, said Rep. Tourette. "The atmosphere today no longer encourages the finding of common ground."
The Washington Post reports his departure leaves Ohio Republicans in a bit of a bind for a replacement to run in under 100 days. Rep. LaTourette himself acknowledged the "precarious position", but also declined to name a preferred successor or what he intends to do after leaving office, according to The Plain Dealer.
"I will tell you that Washington and public life is not the same as it was when I started a quarter century ago," he added.