A day after telling reporters he would consider voting to impeach Donald Trump, the Florida Republican Francis Rooney told Fox News he had decided to retire from Congress.
On Friday, Rooney was asked about the political consequences of impeachment, a process the House will probably vote to advance after an inquiry steered by Democratic-controlled committees.
He said he wanted “to get the facts and do the right thing because I’ll be looking at my children a lot longer than I’m looking to anybody in this building”.
No House Republicans have yet said they will vote to impeach the president and send the matter to the Senate for trial.
Senate Republicans are not expected to defect in numbers great enough to convict Trump and ensure his removal. But it has been reported that majority leader Mitch McConnell is preparing his caucus.
In the same Friday conversation, Rooney said: “Whether I run again is a totally different can of worms, OK?”
On Saturday he confirmed to Fox News that he would not.
Asked if other Republicans felt as he did about impeachment, he said “there are people that talk, that have concerns about a lot of things that have happened – Syria and Mulvaney’s comments just the other day are probably going to drive some people to rethink this a little more. I have, I was shocked at those.”
The president’s abrupt decision to withdraw US troops from Syria remains hugely controversial.
The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, suggested to reporters on Thursday that there had been a quid pro quo in Trump’s treatment of Ukraine, from which he sought political gain, and that the media should “get over it”. He later tried to walk the comments back.
Rooney told Fox News he “hoped” other Republicans were becoming more likely to think as he did on impeachment.
Announcing his retirement, he said: “I’ve done what I came to do. I want to be the model for term limits.”
He added: “I thought the idea was you came and did your public service and left, you accomplish what you want to accomplish and you left. And that’s what I want to be an example to do.
“And I’m also tired of the intense partisanship that stops us from solving the big questions that America needs solved.”
An investor, Republican donor and former US ambassador to the Holy See under George W Bush, Rooney was elected to Congress in 2016.
Republican retirement announcements have stacked up since the Democrats took the House in the 2018 midterms. Trump’s tempestuous presidency has added to the party’s challenges at the polls.
According to ballotpedia.org, 14 Republican representatives have said they will bow out in 2020. Many are from districts where Democrats are expected to challenge.
Rooney is not. Asked if Republicans were worried about Florida’s 19th district, in the south-west of the state, the National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Pack simply told the Washington Post: “R+13.”