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Steven LaTourette: Congress Doesn’t Function

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Rep. Steven LaTourette said Tuesday that he was leaving a Congress that has become too polarized to function, a far cry from the institution in which he spent the past 18 years.

In a characteristically caustic speech abruptly announcing he would not seek a 10th term, the dry-witted Ohio Republican blasted the partisan rancor and gridlock that has enveloped the 112th Congress, joining the handful of Members who have called it quits this year for the same stated reason. Simply put, there is no place for moderates like him in the House anymore, he said.

“The change that I’ve noticed is, it used to be there was Election Day and then there was governance. You fight like cats and dogs on election time and then you govern,” LaTourette said in a press conference at his district office in Painesville. Not so now, he said: “For a long time now, words like compromise have been considered to be dirty words. And there are people on the right and the left who think that if you compromise you’re a coward, you’re a facilitator, you’re an appeaser.”

LaTourette has been perhaps the face of moderate Republicanism in the House in recent years, blasting his own party as equally as Democrats for being unyielding in the face of serious problems. And though he is one of Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) closest friends in Congress, he has not held back from criticizing what he sees as his party’s hard-line rightward swing.

In particular, LaTourette pointed to the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction compromise, which he tried to push as an alternative to one-sided partisan budgets earlier this year, but it went nowhere.

He also singled out legislation he said used to sail through Congress “like a hot knife through butter”: the farm bill, a student loan rate extension and especially the transportation bill, which stalled in the House until a short-term extension was passed and used as the House position in a conference with the Senate.

“We’re talking about building roads and bridges for Christ’s sake. We’re not talking about big Democratic and Republican initiatives. ... I think [it is] an embarrassment to the House of Representatives,” he railed. “But more than being an embarrassment to the House of Representatives, it was indicative of the fact that people are more interested in fighting with each other than they are in getting the no-brainers done and governing.”

Behind the scenes, however, Republican aides said LaTourette may have had other frustrations with the transportation bill, namely that he would not have a chance to helm the committee with jurisdiction.

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