'Health Scares' Prompt Retirement of Long-Time GOP Congressman

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - No sooner does the new Congress convene than it loses a Republican member. Fourteen-term Rep. Bud Shuster (R-PA), citing unspecified "health scares," said Thursday he'll retire at the end of January.

In a statement, Shuster, the head of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, said his recent health problems have caused him to reevaluate his priorities and responsibilities. He said he has "reached the pinnacle of my congressional career." He was unopposed in the November election. He was first elected to the House in 1972.

The House ethics committee rebuked Shuster, 68, several months ago for "serious official misconduct" stemming from improper gifts he allegedly accepted and his relationship with a lobbyist. Pennsylvania's Republican Gov. Tom Ridge will call a special election to elect Shuster's successor.

Representative Tom Davis (R-VA), Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee was saddened by Shuster's decision to retire.

"Bud has spent 28 years working hard for the people of Pennsylvania. He has also been a leading force in helping establish national policy on transportation issues as chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. We wish he and his family the best," Davis said.

Davis, however, is confident Shuster's seat will remain in Republican hands.

"The 9th congressional district of Pennsylvania is strong Republican territory. While we're always sorry to lose a member of our majority, I'm confident that the seat will remain in Republican hands," Davis said.

The Associated General Contractors of America, a construction trade group was also dismayed by Shuster's intention to retire.

"The retirement of Congressman Shuster is not only a loss for the construction industry, it is a loss for America. No one has dedicated himself more to improving the quality of life for Americans than Bud Shuster," AGC Executive Vice President and CEO Stephen Sandherr said in a statement.

Shuster's departure will create a second vacancy in the House. The chamber will temporarily be comprised of 220 Republicans, 211 Democrats and two independents.

The other vacancy in the new Congress occurred when California Democrat Julian Dixon died in December, just a month after he was elected to a 12th term. A special election for Dixon's seat is expected to occur in either April or June.

Bettye Dixon, the late Congressman's widow, told the Los Angeles Times she is not interested in running for the congressional seat.

"I don't have the feeling in my gut that he had. I want to put that rumor to rest. I will not be pursuing my husband's seat in Congress," Mrs. Dixon said.