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House GOP chairman overseeing reform of harassment policies to retire

House GOP chairman overseeing reform of harassment policies to retire
© Greg Nash

Rep. Gregg HarperGregory (Gregg) Livingston HarperGOP lawmakers urge improvements to cyber vulnerabilities resource Bipartisan leaders of House panel press drug companies on opioid crisis Republican chairman wants FTC to review mergers of drug price negotiators MORE (R-Miss.), the chairman of the House Administration Committee, said Thursday that he will retire at the end of this year, joining a growing list of Republicans opting not to seek reelection.

Harper is now the seventh House GOP panel chairman to decide to leave Congress since the start of last year.

He said in a statement that he and his family decided over the holidays that this year would be his last in Congress, where he has served since 2009.

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"The opportunity to serve the people of the 3rd District, our state, and our country is something that my wife, Sidney, and I will never forget. We have been contemplating for almost two years when it would be our time not to run again, and after spending time over Christmas and New Year’s with my family, we made the very difficult decision to say that 10 years will be long enough. I never intended for this to be a career, and it will soon be time for another conservative citizen legislator to represent us," Harper said.

Aides to Harper did not offer official comment early Thursday afternoon.

Harper began serving as House Administration Committee chairman a year ago, and therefore was not bound by term-limit rules, like most of the other chairmen who also decided to retire.

House GOP conference rules limit chairmen to serving three consecutive two-year terms, which contributed to Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingOn The Money: Watt's accuser describes sexual harassment claims in stunning testimony | SEC sues Elon Musk for fraud | Mnuchin says GOP hasn’t lost messaging war on taxes Mel Watt's accuser describes sexual harassment claims in stunning testimony House panel invites Watt accuser to testify at Thursday hearing MORE (R-Texas), Science Committee Chairman Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithOvernight Energy: Watchdog to investigate EPA over Hurricane Harvey | Panel asks GAO to expand probe into sexual harassment in science | States sue over methane rules rollback Report on new threats targeting our elections should serve as a wake-up call to public, policymakers Overnight Energy: Watchdog faults EPA over Pruitt security costs | Court walks back order on enforcing chemical plant rule | IG office to probe truck pollution study MORE (R-Texas), Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteFusion GPS co-founder pleads the Fifth following House GOP subpoena House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein Fusion GPS co-founder will invoke 'constitutional rights not to testify': lawyers MORE (R-Va.) and Transportation Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterHouse and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix our infrastructure It’s high time for a discussion on infrastructure MORE (R-Pa.) deciding to retire instead of seek reelection this year.

Former Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzEric Trump blasts professor at alma mater Georgetown: ‘A terrible representative for our school’ Matt Schlapp: Trump's policies on Russia 'two or three times tougher than anything' under Obama Tucker Carlson: Ruling class cares more about foreigners than their own people MORE (R-Utah) could have served as House Oversight Committee chairman through 2020, but stepped down last year to take a position at Fox News.

Rep. Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackHow the Trump tax law passed: The final stretch Trump’s endorsements cement power but come with risks The Hill's Morning Report — Trump optimistic about GOP’s midterm prospects as Republicans fret MORE (R-Tenn.) plans to step down as the chairwoman of the House Budget Committee, which she began leading in 2017, once a replacement is named this year so that she can focus on her campaign for governor. 

Harper has been a key part of recent legislative efforts to overhaul Capitol Hill's sexual harassment prevention policies. 

His committee has held multiple hearings about the system available for staffers to report harassment, which lawmakers of both parties say is overdue for reform.

Harper and a group of bipartisan lawmakers said in late December that they expect the House Administration Committee to advance legislation this month that reforms Capitol Hill's sexual harassment policies. 

The lawmakers said they expect the legislation will include ensuring more transparency for settlement payments and requiring members accused of sexual harassment to be personally responsible for settlements.

At the request of the House Administration Committee under Harper, the Office of Compliance, which handles the harassment reporting process, revealed that six-figure sums of taxpayer dollars have been paid out for settlements related to sexual harassment in recent years. 

A special fund operated by the Treasury paid out $84,000 to a former staffer who accused Rep. Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdFormer aides alleging sexual harassment on Capitol Hill urge congressional action AP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups MORE (R-Texas) of sexual harassment in 2015. The Office of Compliance also disclosed that $115,000 in settlements were paid in three sexual harassment cases between 2008 and 2012.

Harper's Mississippi district is expected to remain under GOP control after this year's midterm elections. But his retirement creates yet another open seat currently held by a Republican in an election cycle expected to be challenging for the party due to historical midterm trends.

Republicans stand to grapple with at least 29 open seats this year, due to 16 retirements, 10 lawmakers running for other office and two resignations. Rep. Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiHow the Trump tax law passed: Dealing with a health care hangover How the Trump tax law passed: Breaking the gridlock  AP: Balderson wins hotly contested Ohio special election MORE (R-Ohio) is also expected to step down by the end of this month to take a position at the Ohio Business Roundtable, likely prompting another special election.

By comparison, House Democrats so far are only facing 15 open seats in 2018. Only plan to retire, while the other open seats will be due to eight lawmakers running for other office and the resignation of former Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersFormer campaign aide to New Jersey governor says she was sexually assaulted by his ex-staffer Kavanaugh controversy has led to politicization of 'Me Too,' says analyst Sexual assault is not a game — stop using women to score political points MORE Jr. (D-Mich.).