Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee and a staunch defender of U.S. spying programs, said Friday he won't seek re-election this year.
The Michigan Republican said he will tackle a new profession once his term expires in January — talk radio host.
"Clearly [I have] mixed emotions but it really has been an honor and privilege to do what I do and it has been an exciting run, and I just felt this was an opportunity that was hard to pass up," Rogers told radio host Michael Patrick Shiels on his "Big Show," which broadcasts on stations through Michigan. "I'll have a bigger platform to talk about things that I care about."
Rogers, 50, suggested that frustration over congressional gridlock was a big factor in his decision, which caught many off guard on Capitol Hill.
"Washington is an interesting place. It seems like it's ground to a halt in progress in some places," he said. "So I thought if there's a way we can change the dialogue, is it better to do it where I'm at or is it better to try to find an opportunity that allows me to talk to a lot more people every day across the country?"
Rogers said he hadn't planned on leaving Congress, but the radio opportunity "fell into my lap."
"I said 'no' twice and 'yes' the third time," he said.
His radio show will air nationally starting in January as part of Cumulus Radio, the Detroit News reported.
Rogers is no stranger to a microphone, having racked up more Sunday morning political talk show appearances than any member of Congress each of the last two years, according to Roll Call.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called Rogers a "patriot" who is as "solid as they come."
"By being tough but fair, he has navigated the toughest issues we face while commanding the respect of colleagues and the intelligence community," the speaker said.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Israel had a different take, saying Rogers's decision to step down was rooted in frustration over Boehner's failed leadership.
"Senior Republican committee chairmen continue to flee John Boehner’s broken Congress rather than defend their indefensible record of siding with special interests over middle-class families that has earned them record low approval ratings," Israel said.
The Intelligence Committee chairman has defended the National Security Agency amid reports the agency has collected bulk communications data on almost every American. He has opposed a presidential task force recommendation that a third-party company should hold telephone data collected by the NSA, saying such a move could compromise privacy rights and national security.
The Republican lawmaker, a former FBI agent, frequently worked with the intelligence panel's top Democrat, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, to push through bipartisan bills.
Rogers’ retirement could generate intense jockeying on the part of Republicans interesting in succeeding him as committee chairman.
The decision likely won't be made until after the November elections, and lies solely in the hands of House GOP leaders. Whether that is Boehner or another Republican, such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, could make a big difference in who the new chairman is.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, is the highest-ranking Republican on the committee after Rogers, according to seniority. But Thornberry is in line to become Armed Services Committee chairman, and likely to take a pass. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., is next in line, but currently serves as Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman. It’s not clear that GOP leaders would approve of Miller giving up that gavel to lead the intelligence panel.
The members to focus on are Republican Reps. Mike Conaway of Texas, Peter King of New York, Devin Nunes of California and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.
Of that group, Nunes is strongly allied with Boehner and is known to covet the Intelligence chairman post. He has been among the most active committee members in investigating the Benghazi terrorist attack, and has taken virtually every tough vote asked of him by the leadership team. Nunes also has been active in raising money for his colleagues.
Nunes issued a statement Friday saying he would like to be considered for the post.
Conaway and Westmoreland also are respected in the House GOP caucus. But some speculate Conaway is more interested in becoming chairman of the Agriculture Committee. That leaves Westmoreland, who is deputy chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee and a Cantor ally. If Boehner retires after the election and Cantor becomes speaker, that could benefit the Georgian, if he is interested in the post.
King, a former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, is thought to be highly interested in the job. King’s New York base could boost his candidacy for the job, if he does seek it, although any bid could also be hampered by the fact that he occasionally feuds with his party in the media. After House Republicans threatened to not approve aid for Hurricane Sandy, King urged New York donors to stop contributing to the GOP.
Rogers' retirement also opens a potentially competitive race -- particularly for the GOP primary -- for his congressional seat, situated west of Detroit. President Obama won the district in 2008 and lost to Michigan native Mitt Romney by three percentage points in the 2012 presidential general election.
Potential Republican candidates for Rogers' seat include former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, state Sen. Joe Hune and Rogers' older brother Bill, a state representative.