GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling to retire after end of current term
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of his term.
“Today I am announcing that I will not seek reelection to the U.S. Congress in 2018. Although service in Congress remains the greatest privilege of my life, I never intended to make it a lifetime commitment, and I have already stayed far longer than I had originally planned,” Hensarling said.
Hensarling has been set to lose his position as chairman of the Financial Services Committee at the end of this Congress; GOP rules limit a chairman to three consecutive terms. Hensarling said the term limits made it the right time to leave Congress to spend more time with his family.
Talk of Hensarling’s possible retirement had started to pick up before the Dallas Morning News first reported his departure on Tuesday.
Capitol Hill and K Street sources told The Hill on Monday that Hensarling could announce his departure by the end of this week or next.
Several GOP lawmakers and aides on the Hill, before Hensarling’s statement to the Dallas Morning News, had said there was an “expectation” that this would be Hensarling’s last term in Congress.
Hensarling has chaired the Financial Services panel since 2013, leading the House GOP fight against the strict Dodd-Frank Act finance rules passed after the financial crisis.
The committee produced dozens of bills to restrict or eliminate major portions of Dodd-Frank. Many of those laid the foundation for Hensarling’s Financial Choice Act, the most ambitious attempt to reshape the Obama-era law.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called the bill “the crown jewel” of the GOP agenda, and included it in the party’s 2017 policy platform. The House passed the bill along party lines in June, but GOP senators have shown little interest in taking it up.
Hensarling has also advanced a slew of other fixes to Dodd-Frank through the committee, several with major bipartisan support, earning high marks from the financial services industry.
“He has had — and continues to have — a tremendous impact on the financial sector,” said a financial services industry lobbyist of Hensarling, calling him “the leader in Republicans efforts to reduce financial regulation under President Trump.”
But Hensarling faced a limited future in the House beyond his chairmanship. He was elected House GOP conference chair in 2011, succeeding then-Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), but passed on several chances to climb the GOP leadership ladder after that.
Hensarling was often floated by colleagues as a possible future majority leader or speaker, but he declined run for the No. 2 job after Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) lost his primary in 2014 and didn’t run for any open leadership posts after former Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) abruptly resigned from the speakership in 2015.
Hensarling has also fought fellow Republicans on key issues before his committee. More than two-thirds of the House killed his effort to permanently close the Export-Import Bank in 2015 with a GOP-led discharge petition.
He’s also squabbled with coastal Republicans, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), over Hensarling’s preference for higher federal flood insurance premiums and stricter requirements for building and insuring homes in flood zones.
Hensarling said Tuesday the Financial Services Committee will continue to work on financial regulations, housing finance, cybersecurity and capital formation. He also pledged “to continue the fight for individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited constitutional government — the causes for which I remain passionate.”
Ryan called Hensarling “a true constitutional conservative who understands that free enterprise is critical to a thriving America” in a Tuesday statement.
“I am going to miss him and this institution will miss him, but knowing Jeb, I’m positive he has a great chapter ahead,” Ryan said.
Hensarling is “very close to Pence and would be well positioned for a strong opportunity in the Trump administration,” said one GOP lawmaker who knows the chairman and vice president.
Hensarling chaired the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a conservative policy group of more than 100 Republicans, from 2007 to 2009. Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C), current RSC chairman, said Hensarling helped shape the group with his “grit and wisdom.”
“He has always been able to crystalize the conservative direction forward when Congress is presented with challenges,” Walker said. “It is not often that we get champions in Congress for limited government and fiscal discipline like Jeb.”
Updated at 3:33 p.m.