Rep. Pat Tiberi, the Ohio Republican who announced it was quitting time on Thursday, is a serious policy wonk with deep political roots in the Buckeye State and a big fan of bocce, befitting his celebration of his Italian heritage.
An unapologetic Midwestern Rotary Club-type Republican in the mode of his political patrons, former Speaker John A. Boehner and Gov. John R. Kasich, Tiberi will leave Congress by Jan. 31 — before his ninth term in the House ends — and become head of the Ohio Business Roundtable.
His next job fits well with his background. The son of Italian immigrants, Tiberi grew up in a blue-collar and Democratic household in Columbus and became a realtor. He registered as a Republican in the 1980s, when Kasich won him over, and went on to work as an intern and district aide for Kasich when the future governor was in the House.
That led to Tiberi’s own election in 1992 to the Ohio House, where he rose to the position of majority leader. When Kasich announced he was leaving the House and would be pursuing a run for the presidency in 1999, Tiberi jumped into the race to replace his onetime boss. Ohio’s GOP political gentry backed him, including Kasich, Boehner and Ohio’s two senators at the time, George Voinovich and Mike DeWine.
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Once in Congress, Tiberi delved into chewy policy — taxes, health, trade — and became a political operator close to Boehner, helping count votes and make the National Republican Congressional Committee more efficient.
On the Ways and Means Committee, Tiberi climbed the ranks and chaired powerful subcommittees like Select Revenue, Trade and, most recently, Health.
But positions he held that dovetailed for generations with GOP politics, such as his support of free trade, became toxic with the rise of the tea party and Donald Trump, and he became a lonelier policy voice in the Republican caucus, particularly after Boehner quit in 2015.
He got behind Kasich’s 2016 bid for the presidency early and stayed late, urging Donald Trump to quit the race last October after the “Access Hollywood” video tape of Trump bragging about grabbing women by the genitals was released.
All along, he was a pretty popular guy in Congress, helping put on an annual Congressional Bocce tournament with Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey.
“We are a bipartisan group, and the game breaks down political barriers,” Tiberi told Roll Call’s Heard on the Hill at last year’s tournament. “It is a nice opportunity to form friendships outside politics.”
Whatever the reason Tiberi decided to say ciao to Capitol Hill, it wasn’t because he was politically vulnerable. Early in his career, his Columbus-based district was competitive and was frequently a Democratic target.
In 2012, though, redistricting made his district more Republican. He won in 2016 with 67 percent in a district Trump carried with 52 percent. He had a boatload of campaign cash and was talked up as a possible challenger to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
But like Boehner before him, Tiberi eventually decided it was better to be outside Congress than in — so much so that it wasn’t even worth finishing out a term.