Rep. Walter Jones, GOP rebel and Iraq War critic, dies at age 76

Longtime Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesNorth Carolina reporter says there could be 'new crop' of GOP candidates in 9th Congressional District race House pays tribute to Walter Jones GOP leader presses Trump to agree to border deal MORE (R-N.C.), who came to Congress in the Republican revolution of 1994 and later became an independent voice and critic of the war in Iraq, died Sunday at the age of 76. 

Jones, who hadn’t voted since September because of illness, entered hospice care in January after breaking his hip.

A special election will be held later this year to fill his seat.

He was best known as a critic of the U.S. war in Iraq, a military engagement he initially championed.

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His office confirmed his death in a statement that highlighted his dedication to serving active-duty soldiers and military veterans.

“With a kind heart and the courage of his convictions, he dedicated his life to serving his Savior and to standing up for Americans who needed a voice. He was a champion for our men and women in uniform and their families, always mindful of their service and sacrifice,” the statement said.

Jones admitted in a 2015 radio interview that he felt intense regret for voting for the war without more diligently scrutinizing the Bush administration’s claims that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

“I did not do what I should have done to read and find out whether [former President George W.] Bush was telling us the truth about Saddam being responsible for 9/11 and having weapons of mass destruction,” Jones told "The Tyler Cralle Show."

“I helped kill 4,000 Americans, and I will go to my grave regretting that,” he lamented.

Jones at first championed the invasion and even went so far as to lead an effort to change the name of French toast and french fries in the House cafeterias to “freedom toast” and “freedom fries.” It was a jab at France for refusing to join Bush’s coalition of allies ahead of the war.

But as the Bush years wore on, he became known as a principled rebel.

In 2007 he was one of 11 Republicans who broke with the GOP leadership over a resolution opposing Bush’s plan to send an additional 21,000 troops to quell the violent civil war in Iraq.

More recently, he was one of 12 Republicans to vote against President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE’s tax reform package in December of 2017 because it was “financed not by cutting spending elsewhere in the budget but by adding $2 trillion to America’s debt.”

He cited an estimate that the new tax law would cause 5 percent of taxpayers to pay more in taxes in 2018 and 9 percent to pay more by 2025.

Jones voted in May of 2017 against the Republican plan to repeal ObamaCare because he said it would not fix what he called “our broken health care system."

He criticized the bill for being “rushed” through a “behind-closed-doors process” that left him and other colleagues with little idea of its likely impact and warned it would discriminate by as many as 7 million veterans by making them ineligible for tax credits.

Jones also bucked his party’s leadership by advocating for campaign finance reform. He co-sponsored legislation to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations, labor unions and 501(c)4 advocacy groups to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections.

In 2015, he was among 25 House Republicans to vote against then Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring Trump appears alongside Ocasio-Cortez on Time 100 list MORE (R-Ohio) serving another term as Speaker, setting the stage for his retirement later that year.

Jones was known for his espousing Judeo-Christian values and often concluded interviews by telling reporters, “God bless.” In 2014, he touted the fact that the Secular Coalition for America gave him its lowest score of any member of Congress.

His 3rd Congressional District encompassed much of eastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks. He served on the House Armed Services Committee and represented Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

He posted the photos of slain service members from Camp Lejeune outside his Rayburn Building office.

Jones was first elected to the North Carolina Statehouse as a Democrat in 1982 but switched parties after running an unsuccessful campaign for his father’s House seat in North Carolina’s 1st District, which late Rep. Walter B. Jones Sr. represented for 26 years. 

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisPro-life Christians are demanding pollution protections Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Abrams: Schumer has been 'relentless but thoughtful' about Senate bid MORE (R-N.C.) praised Jones in a statement as “the true embodiment of a public servant.”

“He will be long remembered for his tireless advocacy for Eastern North Carolina, which he loved dearly, and for always following his convictions, no matter the political cost,” he said. “He always did what he felt was right for his constituents, his district, and his country, and it was no wonder why he was so widely admired and trusted.”