P H I L A D E L P H I A, Jan. 4, 2001 -- U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, a 14-term congressmanrebuked by the House ethics committee in the fall for allegedlyaccepting improper gifts and favoring a lobbyist, said today hewill retire at the end of January.
Shuster, R-Pa., cited recent “health scares” and therealization he had “reached the pinnacle of my Congressionalcareer” with recently passed transportation legislation. He saidhe would leave office Jan. 31.
“I’ve been chairman of the largest and most productivecommittee in Congress, I have no desire to do less,” Shuster saidThursday from his Capitol Hill office. Shuster in December finishedhis sixth and last year as chairman of the Transportation &Infrastructure Committee, having served the maximum time allowed byHouse rules.
Shuster, 68, also said his wife’s “serious health problems”prompted him to want to spend more time with her. He did notelaborate on his or his wife’s health problems.
“It’s a personal decision,” Darrell Wilson, his chief ofstaff, said today. “He struggled with it for a long time. Ittook him a year to make.”
Shuster, who was sworn in Wednesday, said he decided to retireat the end of the month because he wanted to vote for DennisHastert as House speaker. Also, by vacating his seat early in theterm, residents of the solidly Republican 9th District insouth-central Pennsylvania would be out of a representative duringwhat is traditionally a slow period in Congress, he said.
Shuster said he spoke to Gov. Tom Ridge on Wednesday night, andRidge promised to call a special election quickly.
In the House, Republicans have 221 seats to 211 Democraticseats, with two independents and one seat left vacant by the deathof Rep. Julian Dixon, D-Calif.
In September, the Committee on Standards of Official Conductcriticized Shuster for “serious official misconduct” but sparedhim further penalty.
The committee found Shuster engaged in a “pattern andpractice” of allowing his former top aide Ann M. Eppard — wholobbies for companies with business before the transportation panel— to appear before him in his official capacity in the year afterher resignation from his staff. This “created the appearance thathis official decisions might have been improperly affected,” thecommittee report said.
Shuster, who has represented the 9th District since 1973 and wasre-elected in November without opposition, said he negotiated anagreement with the ethics committee just to end the investigationand admitted no wrongdoing.
In October, 60 Minutes broadcast a tape it said showedShuster hiding in the back seat of a vehicle driven by Eppard toconceal how often he stayed at her home. Eppard later said thewoman driving the car was her sister.
Eppard was fined $5,000 in 1998 after pleading guilty to afederal misdemeanor charge of receiving improper compensation. Shehad been accused of illegally receiving money and gifts tointercede with Shuster and government agencies on behalf ofcompanies threatened by the Big Dig, Boston’s massive federalhighway project.
King of Highways
Shuster has said his work on the Transportation Committee,including extensive improvements to the country’s ground and airtransportation, will be better remembered than the ethics committeerebuke.
Under his tenure, Congress passed legislation to improve roadsand highways throughout the country — the 1998 TransportationEfficiency Act — which authorized $218 billion over five years. Hehas also pushed to change the funding formula so airline taxes areused for airport improvements rather than for the general fund.
Shuster was well-known for using federal transportation bills tosteer funding to projects in Pennsylvania. They include the BudShuster Highway, a four-lane highway that runs 53 miles from theturnpike to a town just miles from where his district ends, and theBud Shuster By Way, a separate, three-mile stretch to bypass hishometown of Everett.
In 1996, Shuster’s son, Bob, unsuccessfully ran for a House seatin a district next to his dad’s. If elected, the Shusters wouldhave become the first father-son team since 1845 to serveconcurrently in the House.
Shuster said he was thankful to help thousands of people andauthor “major legislation to rebuild America.”
“Like my boyhood baseball idol, Lou Gehrig, I consider myselfthe luckiest man on the face of the earth — to have realized mydream of becoming a U.S. Congressman,” he said.
Shuster said he did not know what he would do next.
“Like Scarlett O’Hara, I will think about that tomorrow,” hesaid.