Rep. Lamar Smith Announces Retirement

Rep. Lamar Smith Announces Retirement

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced today that he will not seek reelection next year.  He is currently chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.  A strong NASA supporter, in recent years he has particularly championed astrophysics research at NASA.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) at April 2017 hearing on “Advances in the Search for Life.” Screengrab.

Smith was first elected to Congress in 1986 representing the 21st district of Texas, near San Antonio and Austin.  In a statement today, he said he was retiring in part because his 6-year term as chairman of the House SS&T Committee will come to an end.  Top level committee positions are term-limited under House rules.

“For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else. At the end of this Congress, I will have completed my six-year term as Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. I have one new grandchild and a second arriving soon!!  And I hope to find other ways to stay involved in politics.”

Though a supporter of NASA, Smith was a fierce critic of President Obama and NASA programs associated with his presidency, such as the Asteroid Redirect Mission.  He also has sharply challenged other science agencies like the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  A climate change skeptic, he has subpoenaed NOAA officials because he believes NOAA is manipulating climate data and recently challenged Congress’ own Government Accountability Office (GAO) for relying on climate change reports that he considers questionable.

Regarding NASA, Smith has been a stalwart supporter of human spaceflight, particularly of sending humans to Mars as quickly as possible. For several years he advocated for a “Mars 2021” to send humans around Mars (not to land) by 2021.  He also became a strong supporter of astrophysics, particularly the search for planets around other stars (exoplanets) and other life in the universe.  Most recently he chaired a hearing in April on “Advances in the Search for Life.”

Smith will serve out the rest of his term.  It is impossible to say so much in advance of  the 2018 congressional elections who is likely to succeed him as House SS&T chairman, but Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) is the committee’s Vice Chair.


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