House committee chair term limits a factor in Lamar Smith’s retirement

Lamar Smith (KXAN Photo)
Lamar Smith (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After 30 years representing Texas in the U.S. House, Congressman Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, announced Thursday he is retiring at the end of his term.

Congressman Smith has been the chairman of the powerful Science, Space, and Technology Committee for several years. The Republicans who control the House hav term limits on chairing committees and that played a large role in Smith’s retirement.

“I love my job, frankly, I wouldn’t like to be doing anything else,” Rep. Smith told KXAN. “But my chairmanship of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee is coming to an end. On the Republican side you can only serve as chairman for six years.”

Rep. Smith says he looks forward to spending time with his second grandson. However, if he was allowed to continue to chair a committee he would be “tempted” to run again.

He was first elected in 1987 and has been the chairman of two other committees: ethics and judiciary. His colleagues say he was crucial in passing laws on patents and STEM education. He’s a respected leader by both parties, but drew some controversy over some of his views — in particular, his skepticism about climate change being caused by human activity. KXAN asked him if the hyper-partisan Washington environment drove him to retire. He said no.

“As far as the atmosphere goes, it’s what you make of it. I’m certain that the next person from the 21st district will take their judgement, will take their efforts, will take their energy to Washington D.C. and put it into good practice.”

District 21, which Smith represents, goes from Austin to San Antonio all the way out past Kerrville. For his now open seat, there are many people looking into running already, but it is drawn to favor Republicans by a good margin.

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