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Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican who leads the House committee primarily responsible for conducting oversight and investigations of the federal government, said Thursday he may leave Congress before his term ends, a day after announcing he would not run for re-election in 2018.
“My future plans are not yet finalized but I haven’t ruled out the possibility of leaving early,” he said. “In the meantime, I still have a job to do and I have no plans to take my foot off the gas.“
Meanwhile, Utah officials have begun preparing for a special election to replace him, said Lieutenant Gov. Spencer Cox. The district is heavily Republican.
James Evans, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said, “It’s my impression that Congressman Chaffetz still has a few legislative measures that he wants to shepherd through but we are preparing in case he steps down before his term ends.”
As chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Mr. Chaffetz leads the House panel that investigates waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement in the executive branch. Mr. Chaffetz promised to be an independent watchdog despite being in the same party as President Donald Trump, but many critics, including congressional Democrats, urged him to be more aggressive, particularly in investigating conflicts of interest involving the president’s businesses.
Should Mr. Chaffetz leave the job early, he would be the second Republican to step aside from a role monitoring the Trump administration.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes of California was leading an inquiry into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump administration, which the White House has denied. Mr. Nunes recused himself from the investigation earlier this month, citing the need to confront a congressional ethics inquiry into allegations that he improperly disclosed classified information to the public in the course of the probe.
Mr. Chaffetz, who was first elected to the House in 2008, has expressed interest in higher office. He had been mentioned in Utah political circles as a possible candidate for Senate, though Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch has indicated that he will run for an eighth term instead of retiring when his term ends in 2019. In interviews Wednesday, Mr. Chaffetz ruled out challenging him.
But Mr. Chaffetz has not ruled out running for Utah governor in 2020. Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, is in his third term but could opt to run for a fourth. In the meantime Mr. Chaffetz has said he plans to enter the private sector.
Courtesy of WSJ