The Democratic chairman of the House Budget Committee announced his retirement from Congress on Tuesday amid the party’s infighting over President Biden’s $3.5 trillion expansion of the federal safety net.
Rep. John Yarmuth, Kentucky Democrat, announced he would not be seeking reelection to a ninth term next year in a video posted on social media.
The 75-year-old lawmaker said the move came out of a “desire to have more control of my time in the years I have left.”
“It’s been an incredible journey since my first campaign in 2006 until now,” said Mr. Yarmuth. “I will continue to fight for Louisville in Washington for another 15 months, and then, I will retire from Congress.”
The announcement comes as Mr. Biden’s $3.5 trillion social welfare bill, which Mr. Yarmuth has been shepherding throughout the legislative process, has hit a wall.
Democrats have dubbed the multitrillion-dollar legislation “human infrastructure,” pitching it as a complement to the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate over the summer.
The bill includes a wish list of liberal priorities on such issues as climate change, tuition-free community college and expanded health care programs.
The package has torn open long-simmering divisions between moderate and progressive Democrats.
Moderates, including Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have called for trimming and means-testing the bill.
Far-left Democrats say that any major compromise in the bill’s scope would be inappropriate. Rather they argue, Democrats should cut the overall cost by making the package run out after five years, rather than 10.
The divisions show no signs of being resolved any time soon. When announcing his retirement, Mr. Yarmuth pledged to devote the rest of his tenure in Congress to securing its passage.
Mr. Yarmuth’s retirement makes him the highest-ranking House Democrat to opt against seeking reelection next year. So far, eight members of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic majority have bowed out of running again.
Mr. Yarmuth and Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin, whose seat is viewed as a top pickup opportunity for Republicans, are among those who are leaving public life. Others, such as Reps. Charlie Crist of Florida and Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, have announced bids for higher office.
Republicans have been quick to point to the retirements as proof that Democrats, facing Mr. Biden’s sinking poll numbers nationally, understand the upcoming midterms will not be favorable.
“Smart Democrats know their days in the majority are numbered, so they are retiring or seeking other offices,” said Mike Berg, a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee.
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