Longtime Wisconsin Rep. Sensenbrenner won’t seek re-election
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Longtime Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, known for his role in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and passing the anti-terrorism Patriot Act after 9/11, said Wednesday he will not seek re-election.
Sensenbrenner, 76, said he will retire from Congress in January 2021, at the end of his current term.
Sensenbrenner has served in Congress for 40 years, representing southeastern Wisconsin. Before that he served 10 years in the Wisconsin Legislature.
Sensenbrenner said that when he began public service in 1968, he said he would know when it was time to step back. He says he’s determined that after he completes this term — his 21st in Congress — “it will be that time.”
“I think I am leaving this district, our Republican Party, and most important, our country, in a better place than when I began my service,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement.
Sensenbrenner announced his retirement Wednesday on The Mark Belling Show on WISN-AM. In a separate interview, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he thinks the “time has come to basically turn over the page in the 5th District.”
The veteran GOP lawmaker said he is not retiring because he is worried about a re-election challenge and that his decision is unrelated to his serving in the minority. He said he plans to serve out his current term and that he will back “the Republican ticket from top to bottom” in 2020.
“There is nobody running against me. Nobody can say they’ve pushed me out. I am doing this on my terms,” Sensenbrenner said.
Sensenbrenner served six years as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, where he led passage of the anti-terrorism Patriot Act after the 9/11 attacks, but helped scale back the Nation Security Agency’s powers when it was revealed that the agency was secretly collecting Americans’ phone and online records.
During President Bill Clinton’s impeachment case, Sensenbrenner gave the opening statement for the team of House members that unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Senate to convict Clinton and drive him from office.
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Wisconsin Republican who retired after 2018, called Sensenbrenner “a statesman, a person of remarkable character, and his presence and wisdom will be sorely missed in Congress.”
“He has provided an amazing example for generations of Wisconsin Republican legislators to follow and showed us how to be effective advocates and representatives,” Ryan said in a statement.
While known for his sometimes biting conservative rhetoric, Sensenbrenner also worked with liberal Democrats on some issues, including civil liberties.
Sensenbrenner’s announcement follows the recent decision by Wisconsin GOP Rep. Sean Duffy to resign from Congress. Duffy announced last month that he plans to resign on Sept. 23 to spend more time with his family after learning his ninth child, due in October, has a heart condition.
Sensenbrenner was among the wealthiest members of Congress thanks to family inheritance. He also won a $250,000 lottery jackpot in 1997.