A day after saying he would not rule out voting to impeach President Donald Trump, Florida GOP Rep. Francis X. Rooney announced Saturday he will not run for a third term in 2020.
Rooney, 65, revealed his decision on Fox News during a discussion on his feelings about impeachment proceedings.
"I don't think I really do," he said when asked by Fox News host Leland Vittert whether he needed a third term. "And I don't really think I want one."
Chris Berardi, Rooney's spokesman, later confirmed that the former ambassador and large Republican donor would not run next year in his Southwest Florida district.
Rooney said his decision was motivated by his success in helping to secure money for the Everglades restoration and to ban drilling off the Florida coast for the foreseeable future, not about the blowback he's likely to face in a solid red district from voters who might view his willingness to consider impeachment a betrayal.
Trump's acting chief of staff acknowledged Thursday that aid to Ukraine at the center of a House impeachment inquiry was withheld in part because of the president's desire for the country to investigate potential corruption regarding U.S. domestic politics.
Mick Mulvaney's assertion was the first time a White House official conceded Trump set up a quid quo pro scenario in which money approved by Congress for Ukraine was used as leverage. Hours after his remarks drew bipartisan criticism, Mulvaney said in a statement the money was withheld chiefly over concerns about corruption.
Hours after Mulvaney's initial admission Friday, Rooney told CNN that he wouldn't rule out supporting impeachment.
"I want to study it some more ... but it's certainly very very serious and troubling," he said. "I don't think you can rule (impeachment) out until you know all the facts."
Rooney's comments are the sharpest by a sitting GOP House member yet against the president. And Democrats seized upon them as a sign that Trump was beginning to lose the confidence of GOP lawmakers.
"Rooney should be commended for speaking the truth about President Trump’s abuse of power and separating himself from the rest of the Republican caucus who are unwilling to put country over party and uphold the rule of law," said Avery Jaffe, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Rooney becomes the 18th Republican lawmaker (and 24th overall) not to seek re-election to the House next year.
The 19th District seat Rooney now holds is unlikely to fall into Democratic hands next year. It's one of the country's reddest districts, which Trump won with nearly 60% in 2016.
University of South Florida Distinguished University Professor Emerita and political analyst Susan McManus said that Rooney's move didn't shock her.
"For people like him with a long history of public service you can get to the point of thinking this isn't worth my time," she said. "People are just getting weary of the bickering."
Rooney, 65, is a self-made millionaire businessman and former ambassador to the Vatican nominated by George W. Bush, whose anti-tax, free-market approach puts him in the mainstream of Republican theocracy.
He's sponsored legislation allowing workers to opt out of paying automatic union fees and requiring students who do not complete their education to repay their federal Pell Grants.
But he's also split from his party by being outspoken about the need to acknowledge and confront climate change and has been a vocal opponent of offshore oil drilling.
In March, he was one of 14 Republicans who broke with his party to join a Democratic effort to stop Trump from declaring a national emergency to fund his border wall.
A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rooney voiced his displeasure with the president's recent decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, which has allowed Turkey to lodge an attack on U.S. Kurdish allies who helped in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS.
“The decision by @realdonaldtrump to withdraw our troops from Syria has made way for a Turkish offensive on the Syrian Kurds and will do lasting harm,” he wrote on Twitter Thursday. “I strongly urge @realdonaldtrump to immediately reverse his decision and support the Kurds.”
And the former ambassador has criticized the administration for what he calls the mistreatment of the diplomatic corps in the wake of revelations about Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine for dirt on a political rival – the subject a House-led impeachment inquiry. As a member of Foreign Relations, he is also a member of one of the three House committees that are leading the inquiry and are allowed to sit in on the closed-door meetings where witnesses are being deposed and evidence collected.
Contributing: John Fritze
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: GOP lawmaker Francis Rooney open to impeachment is leaving Congress