- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

Rep. Bud Shuster, the powerful outgoing chairman of the House Transportation Committee, yesterday announced his retirement, citing "health scares" for both him and his wife as the catalyst for his decision.

In a two-page statement, the Pennsylvania Republican, who was sworn in for his 15th two-year term Wednesday, said he also faced the realization that he has reached the "pinnacle" of his career, conceding that was a factor in his decision to retire.

The abrupt announcement elicited speculation from some senior Republicans that Mr. Shuster quit when he could not get a waiver from the six-year limit on committee leadership so that he could continue to chair the House Transportation Committee.

"Which is true for many of the committee chairs," said one Republican aide.

Mr. Shuster was unopposed in his November election and has long relished his role as chairman of the mighty transportation committee, over which he has presided since 1995.

His seat in a Republican district will be filled via special election, with the date set by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. Mr. Shuster's retirement is effective at the end of this month.

Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, was the only congressman to apply for chairmanship of the transportation committee, said Pete Jeffries, a spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.

As far as Mr. Shuster's wishes for a waiver on the term limits, "He never put in for [the chairmanship]," Mr. Jeffries said. "For these, we simply look at who interviewed and what they interviewed for."

Rep. Henry J. Hyde, the Illinois Republican who chaired the House Judiciary Committee, was refused a waiver from the six-year limit yesterday.

The six-year limit on committee chairmanships was one of the major reforms instituted by Republicans after they captured control of the House in 1994.

Mr. Shuster's 9th District, a region tucked into the Allegheny Mountains, is a safe haven for the Republican Party, with a 2-1 majority for registered Republican voters. The district has voted Republican every presidential election since 1964.

Mr. Shuster, who turns 69 on Jan. 23, will live comfortably in his retirement. His pension gives him $94,000 annually until he is 85, the age upon which retirement payouts for legislators are based.

"He will not make any extra money for retiring after being sworn in," noted Pete Sepp, a spokesman for the National Taxpayer's Union. "And he will not get full advantage of this year's pay raise."

What he will get is a mixed legacy. While he has his own roadway in his district the Bud Shuster Highway he is also well known for his rebuke by a House panel last fall after he was accused of accepting improper gifts and favoring a lobbyist.

The House Ethics Committee granted Mr. Shuster limited immunity from criminal prosecution in the case, giving him a letter of reprimand for "serious official misconduct."

The Department of Justice, which has the authority to pursue charges, did not oppose the move.

The action ended any further legal charges, said Gary Ruskin, president of the Congressional Accountability Project, which initially filed the ethics complaint.

"As far as we know, any investigation of him is done, but do I really know that for sure? No," Mr. Ruskin said yesterday.

The Ethics Committee found Mr. Shuster engaged in a "pattern and practice" of allowing his former top aide, Ann Eppard who lobbied for companies with business before the Transportation panel to appear before him in his official capacity in the year after her resignation from his staff.

This "created the appearance that his official decisions might have been improperly affected," the committee report said.

In an interview last fall, Mr. Shuster called his reprimand "much ado about nothing."

"Under the rules of the House, a letter of reproval, by definition, in spite of the maliciously negative words involved, does not rise to the level of serious violations," Mr. Shuster said.

But, most people agree, his tenure as head of the Transportation Committee will follow him forever.

"When people think about transportation and infrastructure, they think about Bud Shuster," said Mr. Jeffries.

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