Rep. Jerry Lewis to Retire, Trend Set

Rep. Jerry Lewis announced Thursday he will retire at the end of this term after 34 years in the House of Representatives.

Lewis is the third California Republican in a week to announce he's stepping down.

Lewis served as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in 2005 and 2006. He also served as the top Republican on that panel when Democrats controlled the House.

Lewis had to relinquish the post due to Republican Conference-enforced term limits. When Republicans won the House in 2010, he tried to secure a term-limit waiver to return to the chairmanship at the start of the 111th Congress but a new anti-earmark orthodoxy prevailed among the new GOP majority and the Republican leadership instead chose Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky to lead the powerful congressional panel.

Lewis was an unabashed defender of earmarks. A Taxpayers for Common Sense analysis found that Lewis funneled millions of dollars toward his district during his time in office. Lewis also found himself in legal trouble in 2006 when the Justice Department probed whether he improperly procured tens of millions of dollars for the clients of a lobbyist.

However, the Justice Department closed the case four years later and filed no charges against the congressman.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas said Lewis' "knowledge and commitment" to California gave Golden State residents a powerful voice in Congress."

"Jerry played a vital role in determining the funding priorities of our nation. His many congressional achievements include ensuring resources for our military and veterans and providing employment and transportation solutions for Southern California.  I am especially grateful for his work with me to support retinal research, helping advance critical discoveries and developments on visual impairments," Sessions said.

Lewis' departure could ease intra-party fighting among Republicans in the California congressional delegation. Reps. Gary Miller and Ed Royce are currently set for a tough primary fight but Lewis's retirement could mean Miller will move and run in that district.

Another possibility is for Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier to run in Lewis' district.

Reps. Wally Herger and Elton Gallegly announced their retirement over the past week, Gallegly's came after he was pitted against House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon in the primary, a byproduct of congressional redistricting.