The Pennsylvania Republican represented Bucks County from 2005 to 2007, losing his seat to Patrick Murphy in a 2006 Democratic wave driven by unrest over the Iraq War. But he returned to Congress in 2010, winning his seat back and holding it again from 2011 to 2017. His death was confirmed to The Bucks County Courier Times by Pat Poprik, the county Republican Party chairwoman.
Fitzpatrick abided by the term limits he proposed as a constitutional amendment and voluntarily retired from the House at the end of 2016, opening the door for his brother Brian to win the seat.
“My big brother Mike was my hero and my best friend. Ever since I was little, I wanted to live up to him and be like Mike in every way. He was the greatest brother and the greatest public servant our community has ever known,” Brian Fitzpatrick wrote in a tweet Monday.
Michael Fitzpatrick was routinely ranked as one of the most bipartisan members of Congress by the Lugar Center, headed by former Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, and by Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy.
“While I am a proud Republican, I’ve worked in Washington under the belief that good ideas aren’t restricted to one party,” Fitzpatrick said on receiving his bipartisanship ranking in 2015.
In addition to term limits in Congress, Fitzpatrick pushed to end congressional pensions, to freeze pay for lawmakers and to impose a longer ban on lobbying by former lawmakers.
He pushed legislation that would require most commercial aircraft to install secondary barriers to airline cockpits, a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The bill was not enacted during his tenure in Congress, but it was signed into law last year after being reintroduced by his brother.
Fitzpatrick was born in Philadelphia and lived in Levittown, the city’s largest suburb. He and his wife had six children. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Thomas University in Florida, then his law degree from Dickinson School of Law in 1988. He made two unsuccessful bids for the Pennsylvania House in the early 1990s, then won a seat on the Bucks County Board of Commissioners in 1995.
The surprise retirement of six-term Republican Rep. James C. Greenwood in 2004 created an opportunity in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District. Because Greenwood had already won the primary when he announced he was leaving Congress to take a lobbying job, party leaders picked the nominee. Fitzpatrick — the favorite of leaders in Bucks County, the district’s dominant jurisdiction — got the nod.
In 2006, Fitzpatrick was hurt at the polls by President George W. Bush’s unpopularity. Democrat Patrick J. Murphy beat him by about 1,500 votes. Fitzpatrick went back to practicing law and survived a case of colon cancer. He came back to challenge Murphy in 2010, when the district was unhappy with Democratic policies such as the 2010 health care overhaul, and won by 7 points.