U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller has announced he will not seek re-election to Congress.
Miller, who has served as Northwest Florida’s representative in the House since 2001, and headed the powerful Veteran’s Affairs Committee since 2010, will leave as his six-year tenure as chairman draws to a close at the end of this calendar year.
“Fifteen years ago when Vicki and I were praying about running for Congress, we could have never imagined what may lie ahead,” he said in a Thursday statement. “As we made our decision, we knew there would come a day when it would be time to pass the torch. That day has come.”
Miller said the decision to leave Washington was an emotional one, but one he is excited to embrace.
“It is time to move to another chapter in my life and give someone else an opportunity to serve in Congress,” he said.
He said he has no clue at this juncture what he will do following his departure from the House.
“I still have a job to do for the next nine months,” he said. “I intend to spend the remainder of my time as the chairman of the VA Committee focus-ing on oversight and accountability of the VA.”
The crisis at the country’s Veteran’s Administration somewhat defined Miller’s time as chairman of the committee charged with its oversight.
He continues, almost daily, to post email statements critical of how VA administrators are handling a clean up of the organization that followed years of corruption and neglect.
He lists his work to pass the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 among the highlights of his time in office.
“The act will force changes to the way the VA provides health care,” he said.
Miller, who succeeded fellow Republican Joe Scarborough in Congress after Scarborough’s unexpected resignation, was the first Congressman sworn in to office following the 9/11 terrorist attack.
The terrorist strike helped define him as a legislator, Miller said.
“The safety and security of this country have never left my mind,” he said. “I sought positions on the Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Com-mittees – two places where I felt I could best represent my district and make a difference for the entire nation.”
The timing of Miller’s departure is somewhat providential. Not only is his chairmanship of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee coming to an end, so is his eight-year term on the House Intelligence Committee.
He said he wouldn’t be eligible for another House chairmanship for at least another four years and there’s no certainty he’d be selected at that time to lead the Armed Services Committee.
Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Miller’s leadership will be sorely missed.
“Jeff has been a fierce protector of our nation’s veterans as the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and his successor will have very large shoes to fill,” he said.
Miller considered a run for the U.S. Senate in 2015 after Marco Rubio decided to campaign for president and announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.
He ultimately decided not to run.
“I just decided that was somewhere I didn’t want to spend my time,” he said.
His flirtation then inspired a couple of state office holders, Sens. Greg Evers and Don Gaetz, to state publicly they might consider a run for the Miller seat if he were to announce his Senate candidacy.
Evers, R-Baker, who is rumored to be eyeing the Santa Rosa County sheriff’s position, might very well still be interested in a job in Washington, and Gaetz’s term in office ends, for all intents and purposes, with the Florida Legislature’s Friday adjournment.
Miller said in his prepared statement that he’d been “blessed with many successes during my time in Congress.”
“There are now two ‘new’ VA Clinics serving the veterans of the First District, including the Joint Ambulatory Care Clinic, which was the proto-type for many others around the country,” the statement said.
“After a host of powerful storms, including a 2004 hurricane named Ivan, we worked together to rebuild our community time and again,” he said. “When the Deepwater Horizon disaster affected the Gulf of Mexico and its surrounding communities, we passed the RESTORE Act, which will help our community recover for years to come.”
During a live interview, Miller reiterated what he’d said in the statement, that he felt some of the greatest successes he and his congressional team enjoyed never made newspaper headlines.
“Things like cutting through red tape to help a widow, assisting a veteran with a disability benefits compensation claim or mediating a bureau-cratic dispute for a constituent rarely make front-page news,” the statement said.
“But they are important responsibilities every member of Congress has a duty to fulfill. Thanks to my dedicated staff … we have made a positive difference in the lives of thousands of our neighbors.”