WASHINGTON (AP) — Eight-term Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, on Thursday announced his retirement from the House at the end of the current term.
"We knew there would come a day when it would be time to pass the torch," Miller said in a statement. "That day has come."
Miller has generally avoided the limelight during his House career, but he was catapulted two years ago into a high-pressure negotiation with Sen. Bernie Sanders over legislation to improve the veterans' health care system in the wake of a scandal over dangerously long wait times for patients and falsified records that covered up those delays.
The odd couple of Miller, who represents a conservative district in Florida's Panhandle, and the liberal Sanders ultimately produced a $16 billion agreement after weeks of sometimes testy talks. Sanders, then-chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, is running an unexpectedly strong race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
They agreed on a compromise that required the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay private doctors to treat qualifying veterans who could not get prompt appointments at VA facilities, or who lived far from those centers.
Sanders and Miller had their disagreements, but they had little choice but to find common ground.
Miller is term-limited under House rules from a fourth term as chairman of the veterans' affairs panel, and it's common for lawmakers to retire in such circumstances.
Miller's district is strongly Republican, and his retirement in likely to set off a contested GOP primary to succeed him.
But he vows he won't be a lame duck for the remaining months of his career. He has been a frequent critic of the VA and has presided over numerous oversight hearings.
"I intend to complete my tenure as House Committee on Veterans' Affairs chairman while maintaining the same robust oversight of VA that has defined my chairmanship," Miller said.