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Shimkus ‘reconsidering’ retirement after top GOP committee post opens up

12-termer from Illinois also seems to soften Trump criticism

Rep. John Shimkus may reconsider a decision to retire to pursue the top GOP post on the Energy and Commerce Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Illinois Rep. John Shimkus, a 12-term Republican who had announced in August he would retire rather than run again in 2020, said Tuesday he is “reconsidering” his decision.

The change of heart comes a day after Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, announced his retirement. Shimkus is third in Republican seniority on the committee, after a former chairman, Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who would need a waiver from GOP rules to become the panel’s chairman or ranking member in the next Congress.

Shimkus said the possibility of pursuing the post was “very exciting.”

“I liken it to a triple-A ballplayer who gets the chance to get called up,” he said. 

In almost the same breath, Shimkus began to walk back some of his recent comments criticizing President Donald Trump, stressing that, while he might have a “policy difference or two” with the president, there are many more issues on which their views align.

The about-face demonstrates the difficulty Republicans in solid red districts have had voicing opposition to Trump. Shimkus’ district, Illinois’ 15th, voted for Trump by 46 points in 2016. 

Shimkus declined when asked to say where he stood on the House impeachment inquiry, changing the subject to “a great hearing” he attended that day on “the renewable fuel standard.”

Earlier this month, Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria led Shimkus to tell KMOX radio that he’d asked his chief of staff to have his name removed from “the ‘I support Donald Trump’ list.”

He told CQ Roll Call last week that his decision not to run made it easier for him to “blurt out” the statement. On Tuesday, he said, he wanted to “define” his comment, saying simply he did not want to be included on Trump’s Victory Team, a list of prominent supporters the president’s campaign has been sending out from each state. 

Citing his experience as an Army officer, Shimkus said Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria had made him “very angry,” and that he had struggled with Trump’s “isolationist” bent. But he said he supported the president’s positions on abortion rights, regulatory burdens and tax relief.

“That makes it an easy choice against a Socialist,” he said. 

Shimkus had been raising money to run again in a race that Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rated Solid Republican when he announced his retirement in August.

As of Sept. 30, Shimkus had $1 million in his campaign account, but he said Tuesday that he had closed down his campaign and helped his staff find new jobs. He would need to file a petition for another run by early December, he said.

Disclosures to the Federal Election Commission show that none of the four Republicans who announced plans to run for the seat since Shimkus said he would retire had raised any money by Sept. 30. Kevin Gaither, the only of two Democrats who had raised money, collected $881 and spent $786. 

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