Congressman Phil Roe, who has represented Tennessee's 1st District for 11 years, announced Friday that he would retire at the end of his current term.
The longtime Johnson City area doctor, age 74, told reporters in a conference call that it had been a privilege to serve but that he'd always pledged to serve only five or six terms and then retire.
Plus, he said, his family is ready for him to spend more time with them -- and they let him know that over the Christmas holidays.
"I got my family together and had a discussion with them," he said. "It was unanimous from my family that I retire and start to act like somebody who is in retired mode."
He said his decision had nothing to do with the current state of politics in Washington.
"It’s time I let off the gas. Now when I grow up, and figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life, I’ll let you guys know. But I suspect at the end of next year I’ll figure out something else to get into."
Roe said there's plenty he still wants to work on in the next 12 months, including an asthma bill with U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland that would help ensure that students with asthma have assistance at school to manage their chronic disease.
He also wants to see what he can do to address the problem of suicides.
"A lot of the focus is going to be on a public health approach to mental health and to try to reduce the incredible number of suicides that occur each day in this country both on the veterans side and on the civilians side," he said.
Roe said he assumed his "legacy" would be his constant work to help improve conditions for U.S. veterans, from health care to higher education loans to Americans' ability to speak out about the Department of Veterans Affairs without fear of retribution.
The congressman said he hoped to bring the U.S. secretary to the VA, Robert Wilkie, to the 1st District as well as the U.S. surgeon general. The time has not been formally set yet.
A Republican from Johnson City, he represents a dozen East Tennessee counties, including Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Sevier counties.
Roe, a veteran himself, served as the chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in 2017.
Family members include his wife, Clarinda, children and grandchildren.
The 116th Congress ends on Jan. 23, 2021.
Roe said he recognizes that this is a contentious time in U.S. politics and in the Congress. But he said it's still possible to work on a bipartisan basis with colleagues to get things done.
"You’ve really gotta remember when you’re doing this job that you’ve got a country to run," he said. "You’ve got constituents that are counting on you to do your job. And it’s necessarily messy sometimes, I think. It has gotten hyper partisan and I think social media has had a lot to do with that."
Fellow Congressman Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03) issued the following statement:
“I want to commend my close friend and colleague Congressman Phil Roe for his work on behalf of the great state of Tennessee and the United States for the past 11 years. Those of us privileged to serve alongside Phil in Congress are well aware that he is an effective legislator, a defender of justice for all, and an advocate for East Tennesseans across his district and the country.
“Phil served our country well both during his time in the United States Army Medical Corps overseas and in Washington. As Chairman and then Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Phil spearheaded efforts to increase access to care for those who have sacrificed in defense of our nation. With his medical background, he led the Republican Study Committee’s Health Care Task Force to establish new protections for patients from the increase of medical costs. His immense contributions to our nation can be widely felt in the Volunteer State and are lauded by all who have benefitted from his tireless advocacy.
“Phil’s legacy will last long after his tenure in Congress comes to a close. All those who worked with Phil will miss him dearly, and I am thankful to have known him as a close friend. I wish he, his wife Clarinda, and his three children, all the best.”
You can read Congressman Phil Roe's entire statement below:
“Serving East Tennesseans these past 11 years has been the honor of my life, and I will be forever grateful for the trust my friends and neighbors put in me to represent them. As someone who practiced medicine for over 30 years, I said I would serve five or six terms because I never intended this job to be a second career. After prayerful consideration, I have decided to retire at the end of the 116th Congress.
“First and foremost, I want to thank my family. No one could do this job without a loving a supportive family, and I look forward to spending more time at home with my wife Clarinda, my adult children and my grandchildren.
“As a veteran, I was honored to be selected to chair the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in 2017. I had one, three and six-year legislative goals for the committee: to increase access to care, improve the electronic health records system, review VA assets to ensure an effective use of resources, and bring true accountability to the department. I never could have imagined that we would accomplish all that in my first term leading the committee – in large part because of the leadership of President Trump. In particular, I was proud to author the MISSION Act – a transformative piece of legislation to ensure veterans have the ability to receive the best possible care now, and in the future - and the Forever GI Bill - to ensure veterans never lose access to the education benefits they have earned. I’ll leave Congress at the end of the year knowing that our nation’s heroes are better served today because of our work. I am still hopeful that, before the 116th Congress adjourns, we will pass important reforms that improve outreach to veterans in crisis to address the suicide epidemic.
“When I first ran for Congress, my hope was that someone with experience as a practicing physician could positively influence health care policy. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law during my first term, and much of my time was spent trying to undo some of the harm that was done to the patient-centered health care model as a result. We have made great progress in reversing some of the most damaging effects of this law such as passing my bill to repeal a government payment setting board that likely would have rationed care. We took the teeth out of the individual mandate and just last month repealed three harmful taxes that discouraged medical innovation and drove up costs for patients. I am also very proud of legislation I introduced while chairing the Republican Study Committee’s Health Care Task Force that would replace the ACA with reforms to actually lower costs for patients and improve the quality of health care. Perhaps most significantly, as co-chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus, I led my colleagues in the fight to repeal the Medicare formula which threatened patients’ access to their physicians and to improve Medicare for seniors. I am still hopeful that before this Congress ends, we will address surprise medical bills in a way that protects patients and is fair to doctors and payers.
“As a senior member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, I was proud to be on the forefront of some very consequential accomplishments. The work we did to help workers’ retirement security through multiemployer pension reforms in 2014 is significant. I was also pleased to be a part of passing the Every Student Succeeds Act to repeal and replace the burdensome federal mandates associated with No Child Left Behind Act. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, we were able to provide careful oversight of labor reforms being pursued by the Obama administration that were holding back job growth. There’s no question in my mind this oversight played a part in helping the Trump administration identify those burdensome rules and regulations.
“Finally, I’m proud of the bipartisan successes. They don’t always make the headlines, but they are critical to our nation’s future. Legislation I authored has dramatically increased the availability of lifesaving epinephrine in schools for those who suffer from deadly food allergies; and the Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial will be built on the National Mall in the coming years as a result of four years of effort to get my bill across the finish line.
“The challenges we are facing now as complex as ever, and I still have a lot of fire in my belly. I look forward to finishing my term strongly for the East Tennesseans that I love representing and working with President Trump in favor of the free-market, conservative policies so many of us hold dear. I am equally confident East Tennessee is full of capable public servants who will step up to fill my void, and I am ready to give them the opportunity to do so.
“I will always cherish the friends I’ve made and people I’ve met. I could not be more grateful to my family, my staff, the volunteers, the veterans, and the numerous East Tennesseans who have made this job so rewarding.
“Thank you for giving me the great honor to represent you in Congress.”