John Kline (R-Minnesota), chairman of the House Education Committee, will not be seeking re-election.
Deirdre Walsh of CNN reports thatf Kline was first elected in 2002, so because of term limits for Republican committee chairs, he would be due to lose his position as head of the educational panel in 2016.
“After much careful thought and deliberation, I have decided not to seek re-election next year,” Kline said in a post on Facebook on Thursday.
Before entering Congress, Kline served his country as a Marine and flew Marine One, the president’s helicopter. Kline, in his announcement, referred to his time as a young military aide to President Ronald Reagan, and also said he still has numerous tasks before he steps down from his post.
“Whether it’s replacing No Child Left Behind, holding the Obama administration accountable for its harmful policies, or strengthening higher education, there is a lot of work to do over the next 16 months,” Kline said.
Kline has been a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner, who praised Kline as a person who “focused on helping America’s troops, veterans and students,” and said that Kline “has a strong record of accomplishments on their behalf. He’s been a fantastic leader and a great friend, and I look forward to continuing to work with him during the remainder of his chairmanship.”
President Obama praised Kline for his 25 years of service in the Marine Corps, his more than a decade in Congress, his courage, and his ability to work in a nonpartisan manner for the good of American students. As for the seat which will become available upon Kline’s retirement, Sacha Haworth, a spokesperson for the House Democrats’ campaign arm, said:
“As Congress lurches from one legislative failure to the next, Minnesotans have grown tired of ineffective Republican leadership in Washington. We’re confident we will win this seat back for the hardworking families in Minnesota who are ready for a change.”
President Obama stated on the White House website that he said he looked forward to working with Kline in the coming months, especially on continuing their efforts to give every child in America the fair shot in life they deserve.
Kline still has 16 months left in his term and has plans left to be accomplished, including overseeing an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind law and mediating differences between House and Senate versions of the proposals. J. Patrick Coolican of the Star Tribune writes that Kline referred to Ronald Reagan in his statement about his decision not to run again.
“(Reagan’s) vision of America as a ‘shining city on the hill’ has guided my decisions throughout my tenure in Congress,” he said, referring to the 40th president’s use of the John Winthrop maxim.
Kline’s education bill includes scaling back the federal government’s role and allowing federal dollars to follow poor students to whatever school they choose to attend. House Democrats have criticized these proposals, saying this would only hurt low-income schools and school districts. The Senate has written a version that compromises and shifts power back to the states in a way that is easier for Democrats to support.
Now, Kline must help in creating a deal for the president to sign, which could be a difficult task since the White House has threatened a veto over provisions of the House bill.
On another education-related matter, Kline helped orchestrate a deal with the president to keep student loan rates low in recent years, but was criticized for his legislative support of for-profit universities, which also happen to be a major campaign contributor. These for-profits are in the process of being scrutinized for “taking advantage of students.”
Democrats already have their eyes on two early recruits for the upcoming vacant House seat: Mary Lawrence, a doctor, and Angie Craig, a St. Jude’s Medical executive. In the DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party), there are two possible candidates, Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) and Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul). Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville) seems a serious contender on the Republican side of the aisle.