WASHINGTON (AP) — Veteran Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner announced his retirement from Congress on Wednesday, making the former House Judiciary Committee chairman the 15th GOP lawmaker to say he will step aside before next year’s elections.
Sensenbrenner, 76, was first elected in 1978 and is the second-longest serving current member of the House, trailing only Alaska Republican Don Young in seniority. Sensenbrenner said in a statement that when he first began public service, “I said I would know when it was time to step back” and that he’d decided now was that time.
Two other House members also announced Wednesday they would not seek reelection next year: Bill Flores, R-Texas, and Susan Davis, D-Calif.
The spate of House Republican retirements puts them ahead of their pace during the 2018 election cycle, when 34 did not run for re-election. That was the party’s highest number of retirements since at least 1930.
Sensenbrenner’s district, which includes parts of Milwaukee’s suburbs, is considered safe Republican terrain. Even so, his departure adds to a parade of GOP lawmakers who will not be back, including at least four seats that Democrats have a legitimate shot at capturing, and will complicate Republican efforts to win back the chamber’s majority .
Democrats control the House 235-197, with one independent and two vacancies in North Carolina that are scheduled to be filled in special elections next week.
Sensenbrenner was a chief author of the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism measure enacted in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A combative conservative, he has championed immigration restrictions, including curbing asylum and barring immigrants in the country illegally from obtaining driver’s licenses. In 2015, he wrote legislation restricting the Patriot Act by limiting federal gathering of some data on individuals.
Sensenbrenner is a descendent of the founder of Kimberly-Clark, the company credited with inventing the sanitary napkin. Financially comfortable since birth, he also won at least one District of Columbia lottery, for $250,000.
In his statement, Sensenbrenner said he’s cast 23,882 House votes and sponsored or co-sponsored 4,299 pieces of legislation, of which 217 were signed into law by six different presidents.
Davis’ and Flores’ districts are both considered safe for their parties.
Davis, a 10-term veteran, has worked on education and military issues. She became the fourth Democrat to say this year that they won’t run again in 2020.
Flores, who once led the conservative Republican Study Committee, has served five terms and said he’d always committed to serving fewer than six.
Besides the 15 GOP retirees, a 16th — Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania — quit Congress early this year and has already been replaced by another Republican.
Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.