Phil Roe, Tennessee Republican, Announces Retirement from Congress

Phil Roe, Tennessee Republican, Announces Retirement from Congress

WASHINGTON —  Representative Phil Roe, Republican of Tennessee, announced on Friday that he would not seek a seventh term in 2020, becoming the first lawmaker this year to join the exodus of Republican lawmakers opting not to run for re-election as their party eyes another tough campaign cycle.

“As someone who practiced medicine for over 30 years, I said I would serve five or six terms because I never intended this job to be a second career,” Mr. Roe said in a statement. “After prayerful consideration, I have decided to retire at the end of the 116th Congress.”

An Army veteran and the top Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee since 2017, Mr. Roe is now the 26th member of his caucus to leave before the next Congress because of retirement or ambitions for a different political office. Nine Democrats in the House have announced retirements for those reasons.

The stream of Republican departures comes amid deep frustration among the rank and file with the limitations of being in the minority in the House, which is entirely dominated by the majority. It has been hastened in part by term limits the party imposes on leadership positions, which have confronted many lawmakers with the unappealing prospect of waging another difficult re-election campaign in which the best-case scenario is hanging onto their job while losing a plum perch, and likely continuing to serve in the minority.

Mr. Roe’s district, which Mr. Trump won by 57 points in 2016, is expected to remain firmly in Republican control.

In his statement, Mr. Roe cited the V.A. Mission Act, an overhaul of veterans health care, as one of his signature accomplishments in Congress, as well as a revision of the G.I. Bill for post-9/11 veterans. As the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, he worked with Democrats on those laws and other efforts to support veterans, voicing optimism that Congress would approve new legislation to assist veterans in crisis and prevent suicides.

“I’m proud of the bipartisan successes,” said Mr. Roe, who also pointed to work on the Education and the Workforce Committee and legislation that approved the construction of a memorial on the National Mall for members of the military who served in Operation Desert Storm or Operation Desert Shield.

“They don’t always make the headlines, but they are critical to our nation’s future,” he said.

Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, called Mr. Roe “an exceptional member who exudes quiet leadership & compassion.”

“When I’ve worked with Phil, I would often think how he must have been an excellent doctor: attentive listener, exuding joy through his warmth, sharing genuine encouragement, & eagerly solving problems,” Ms. Stefanik wrote on Twitter.

The secretary of veterans affairs, Robert L. Wilkie, praised Mr. Roe’s work for the veterans committee.

“The work he did during his time leading the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee has reshaped V.A. for generations to come and will positively impact the lives of millions of veterans,” Mr. Wilkie said.

A Tennessee native, he worked as a doctor for more than three decades — delivering nearly 5,000 babies — before turning to political office. Mr. Roe, who also served for two years in the Army Medical Corps, vowed to continue supporting Mr. Trump in his final months in office.

“The challenges we are facing now as complex as ever, and I still have a lot of fire in my belly,” Mr. Roe said. “I look forward to finishing my term strongly for the East Tennesseans that I love representing and working with President Trump in favor of the free-market, conservative policies so many of us hold dear.”


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