(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Lamar Smith, a climate change skeptic who chairs the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, announced Thursday he won’t run for re-election, making his 16th term in office his last.
Smith, a Texas Republican, said in a statement “this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else.”
Smith completes his term as chairman of the science committee at the end of 2018. The committee has jurisdiction over federal agencies that have a major focus on research and development, such as NASA and the Department of Energy.
As chairman, he’s voiced skepticism that climate change is caused by human behavior, saying that the Obama administration engaged in alarmism to promote an extreme climate agenda. Smith said at a hearing earlier this year that “much of climate science today appears to be based more on exaggerations, personal agendas and questionable predictions than on the scientific method.”
The American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have both said that the overwhelming scientific evidence is clear that global warming is primarily caused by humans.
Smith, who was first elected in 1986, also has encouraged Americans to get their news from President Donald Trump and not the news media.
Smith said it’s humbling to live in a small Washington apartment four nights a week. But traveling back to Texas most weekends “recharges the batteries,” according to his statement. He said he hopes to find other ways to stay involved in politics.
Smith’s announcement comes just two days after Rep. Jeb Hensarling, also a Texas conservative and chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said he would retire at the end of the current term of Congress.
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Smith’s leadership of the committee “established him as a leading policy mind” in the GOP conference. Stivers predicted voters in Texas would “select another conservative Republican like Chairman Smith who shares their values.”
Meredith Kelly, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, blamed the GOP agenda for driving Republicans into retirement. She said the GOP health care bill and tax overhaul plan make clear Republicans “are on the side of the very rich and the largest corporations.”
“These retiring Republicans have seen the writing on the wall, and they’re not waiting around for the midterms,” Kelly said.