Updated 4:30 p.m. | Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster, who is term-limited as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, will not seek a ninth full term in 2018, leaving behind a safe Republican seat.
“Rather than focusing on a re-election campaign, I thought it wiser to spend my last year as Chairman focusing 100% on working with President Trump and my Republican and Democratic colleagues in both Chambers to pass a much needed infrastructure bill to rebuild America,” the GOP lawmaker said in a statement Tuesday.
Shuster told Roll Call in November he was planning to run for re-election in his 9th District, saying he could potentially chair the Armed Services Committee in a few years.
But in an interview with the Washington Examiner, which first reported his retirement Tuesday, Shuster said he doesn’t want a primary or general election to distract him from working on an infrastructure bill.
Shuster met with Trump and White House officials last month to begin plotting the details of such legislation, and an infrastructure bill could be among the top agenda items the president discusses with Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this weekend at Camp David. Most of the infrastructure spending would likely fall under the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s jurisdiction.Shuster must also spearhead a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. Current authorization expires March 31. His Tuesday statement didn’t mention an FAA bill. The congressman has sought, without sufficient support, to spin off the air traffic control system in reauthorization proposals in 2016 and 2017.Shuster sponsored a six-year aviation reauthorization bill last year that includes the provision to separate air traffic control from the FAA — a long-term priority of major domestic airlines. After passing the bill through committee in June, Shuster and allies have been unable to win enough support among House members and leadership hasn’t brought it up for a floor vote.The spinoff is the top priority of Airlines for America, the lobbying group for the industry. In 2014, Shuster began a romantic relationship with Shelley Rubino, a lobbyist for the group.
Because Shuster was already known to be vacating the chairmanship at the end of this Congress, his retirement will have a limited effect on transportation policy in the next Congress.
Republican committee members Sam Graves of Missouri and Jeff Denham of California have both said they’ll seek to succeed Shuster in 2019. Graves is the second most senior committee Republican who hasn’t announced a plan to retire, after Alaska’s Don Young, who served as chairman from 2001 to 2007. Graves and Denham chair subcommittees and are among Shuster’s closest congressional allies.
The 9th District
Shuster narrowly won his most recent primary in April 2016, defeating repeat challenger Art Halvorson by about 1,000 votes. Running as a tea-party candidate, Halvorson tried to paint the congressman as a Washington insider, pointing to his relationship with Rubino.
Halvorson came up short, but he won enough write-in votes from Democrats that he was able to run on the Democratic ticket in the general election. He lost to Shuster by 27 points.
Shuster first came to Congress in a 2001 special election, succeeding his father, Rep. Bud Shuster, who was also term-limited as chairman of the Transportation Committee. The elder Shuster left Congress amid accusations that he accepted gifts from and gave preferential treatment to lobbyists.
State Sen. John Eichelberger has expressed interest in running, a GOP source said. Two GOP sources cited state House Majority Leader Dave Reed, who lives in the district, as another potential contender.
Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.