House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte to Retire

Goodlatte lists criminal justice reform as an issue he wants to pursue before he leaves Congress. Democrats may delay action if they believe they can take control of the House, Senate, or both in next year’s elections.

Two days after Republicans suffered sweeping defeats up and down the ballot in Virginia, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced he will not seek reelection, the Washington Post reports. The 13-term congressman from Roanoke will end his congressional career “after much contemplation and prayer,” he said. House rules bar Goodlatte from serving another term as chairman of the influential committee. He was previously chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Goodlatte said the political climate “didn’t play a role” in his decision. If he ran again, he could have faced a tough fight for the GOP nomination. As an elected official for more than a quarter-century, he has been a target of activists with disdain for entrenched politicians. Goodlatte, 65, said that over the next 14 months, he hopes to bolster enforcement of immigration laws and overhaul the legal immigration system as well as simplify the tax code, enact criminal justice reform and repeal the Affordable Care Act. It is not clear that criminal justice reform measures will clear Congress in the next year if Democrats believe they can take control of one or both houses and enact what they consider stronger measures.