Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, leader of an influential caucus of GOP moderates in the House, announced Thursday he will not seek re-election to an eighth House term next year.
Dent, who has been a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, said in an interview that he never intended to serve as long as he has. But he also said the polarization and conflict on Capitol Hill that make even routine legislating difficult "get tiring."
"Clearly there are challenges here," Dent said. "I worry that with both political parties there is a growing protectionism, nativism and at times nihilism."
Dent is among a dying breed of centrist Republicans on Capitol Hill, and just the most recent GOP moderate to announce plans to leave Congress. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Dave Reichert of Washington also plan to retire after their current terms expire, and all three departures create potential pickup opportunities for Democrats as they aim to retake control of the House next year.
Dent's district of east-central Pennsylvania, including Allentown, leans slightly Republican and is certain to be heavily contested by both parties.
Dent, 57, is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, putting him at the center of spending deals routinely scorned by the party's right flank, with which he regularly did battle. He opposed Trump's election and has not hesitated to criticize the Trump administration's handling of certain policies as well as the president's tone, even while working with the administration on areas of agreement like veterans' issues. Despite his problems with Trump, Dent said that's not what's causing him to leave Congress.
Dent was prominent in the debate over health care legislation earlier this year, ultimately voting against the GOP's legislation to repeal and replace "Obamacare." The debate divided his own moderate caucus, known as the Tuesday Group, for which he was a prominent spokesman.
Dent began his career in state politics and expressed regrets even as he disclosed his plans, saying, "I've enjoyed this job immensely, I love this job." He said he has not yet made plans for his next move but hopes to continue as a voice for responsible governance.