Bereuter Announces Retirement From House

Posted December 16, 2003 at 2:20pm

Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.) announced Tuesday that he will not seek a 14th term next year, saying it is time “to seek other challenges and opportunities.”

Bereuter, 64, announced his plans at an afternoon news conference in Lincoln, Neb.

Bereuter did not shed light on his future plans Tuesday, but he has expressed an interest in the vacant presidency of the University of Nebraska and issued a statement in October saying he would give the position “serious consideration” if it were offered. Local press reports quoted the head of the school’s Board of Regents as saying they could “do better” than Bereuter for the post, but other members of the board said they would consider the lawmaker.

The university’s current president announced in September that he plans to retire in the summer of 2004. Ex-Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) has also been mentioned for the position, though he is reportedly not interested.

First elected in 1978, Bereuter had been the likely choice to take over the Intelligence gavel for the 109th Congress. He serves as vice chairman of the panel and current Chairman Porter Goss (R-Fla.) is retiring from Congress next year.

Bereuter will be vacating senior positions on three other committees: Financial Services, International Relations and Transportation and Infrastructure.

Twice in recent years, Bereuter was thought to be in line to take a full panel chairmanship and both times he was disappointed.

In late 2000, Bereuter appeared to be the leading candidate to replace retiring Rep. Ben Gilman (R-N.Y.) atop the International Relations Committee. But that post ended up going to Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who was given the gavel as a consolation for not being granted a waiver to remain chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Bereuter was then named to the Intelligence panel and was immediately given the vice chairmanship, putting him in line to succeed Goss, who at the time was expected to retire after the 107th Congress.

But after being lobbied by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and President Bush, Goss reversed his decision and stayed in the House, keeping control of Intelligence and once again frustrating Bereuter’s hopes.

Now, with both Goss and Bereuter set to retire, it is not clear whom Hastert will select to be the next Intelligence chairman.

Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (N.Y.) is currently third on the GOP panel roster, but he already holds the Science Committee gavel. Reps. Jim Gibbons (Nev.) and Ray LaHood (Ill.) are fourth and fifth, respectively, but both have served on Intelligence for six years and would need waivers to keep their seats.

Back home, Bereuter has won re-election easily in the reliably Republican 1st district, although Democrats believe there is the potential for a competitive open-seat race to replace the Congressman.

Among the possible Republicans who might run to succeed Bereuter are David Maurstadt, a former Nebraska lieutenant governor who is now a regional FEMA director in Colorado; U.S. Attorney Mike Heavican and Attorney General John Bruning. Bruning, a 33-year-old former state Senator, is widely viewed as having statewide political ambitions.

Bush won 59 percent of the presidential vote in the 1st district in 2000.

Still, national and state Democrats are high on the candidacy of state Sen. Matt Connealy (D), who was already running against Bereuter.

Janet Stewart (D), a vice president at Mutual of Omaha, is also seeking the nomination in the 1st district next year.

In 2000, the last time Bereuter faced Democratic opposition, he won 66 percent of the vote.

Last year, when Bereuter won 85 percent against a Libertarian candidate, the lawmaker told the Omaha World-Herald that he didn’t expect to serve more than an additional six years in Congress.