Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden announced Monday that he will not run for reelection to a 12th term next year.
Walden, 62, said in a statement he was confident he would have won re-election, but “the time has come to pursue new challenges and opportunities.”
“So, I will not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives, nor election to any other office, but instead I will close the public service chapter of my life, thankful for the friends I’ve made and the successful work we’ve done together,” he said.
Walden joins 18 other House Republicans who have announced plans to retire or run for other office. Two other House Republicans recently resigned, leaving current vacancies.
Leadership spot opens
Walden is the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2014 and 2016 cycles. He is the only Republican in Oregon’s congressional delegation.
The retirement will open up the top Republican spot on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. Health Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Michael C. Burgess of Texas, Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Rep. Bob Latta of Ohio and former Republican conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington are the next most senior members of the panel. Illinois Rep. John Shimkus, who vied for the chairmanship against Walden before the 115th Congress, is also retiring.
Burgess is putting his name in for consideration to be the panel’s top Republican during the next Congress, said Sarah-Anne Voyles, his communications director.
“While sad to hear the news of Leader Walden’s retirement, Dr. Burgess looks forward to working with him the remainder of this Congress to accomplish the leader’s priorities,” she said in an email.
Latta’s chief of staff, Drew Griffin, told CQ Roll Call that his boss is “very interested” in succeeding Walden as the committee’s top Republican. McMorris Rodgers, the ranking member of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, is also interested in running, according to a source familiar with her thinking.
A spokesman for Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee ranking member Brett Guthrie of Kentucky, said he also “has been receiving encouragement to run for the next leader” of the committee.
Health care influence
Walden took the helm of the Energy and Commerce Committee in 2017 as Republicans launched their effort to roll back the 2010 health care law.
After the Republicans’ bill was pulled from the House floor because the GOP did not have enough votes to pass it, Walden helped leadership craft a revised bill that attracted votes from center-right members with reservations about the bill’s potential to increase costs for patients with pre-existing conditions.
The Republican health care overhaul eventually stalled in the Senate, and Walden turned his attention to other areas, including the so-called Right to Try law, meant to encourage drugmakers to expand access to experimental treatments, and a wide-ranging law to address opioid addiction.
After Republicans became the minority, he pushed for the Energy and Commerce Committee to do more to address addiction this year.
“Going forward, I hope Congress will move forward on legislation to give law enforcement the additional tools necessary to get illegal drugs off the streets while still allowing for proper use in public health and research capacities,” he wrote in an op-ed last week.
Walden is now working with Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey to pass legislation to end surprise medical billing, an effort that has stalled in recent months. The two have been in talks with leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, about advancing a final product. Walden and Alexander, who is also retiring at the end of this term, may push for the measure to be a final legislative achievement.
Walden is also one of the main critics of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill to lower drug prices in Medicare, arguing the bill could chill investment in new drugs.
Pallone called Walden “a serious legislator who always takes the time to listen to members and to his constituents back home in Oregon,” adding that the Republican’s “voice, ideas and leadership will be missed in the House.”
The retirement announcement was first reported by Politico.
Walden’s 2nd District appears likely to stay in Republican hands. President Donald Trump won the eastern Oregon seat by 20 points in 2016. Walden was reelected to an 11th term in 2018 by 17 points. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.
Andrew Siddons contributed to this story.