Andrews to leave Congress after 23 years

Feb. 4, 2014 7:06 PM |

U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J.,will resign from Congress this month, a report says. / AP

Written by
Malia Rulon Herman

WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews of New Jersey announced Tuesday he will resign from Congress this month to take a job with a Philadelphia law firm.

“In recent days, a new opportunity has come to my attention, which will allow me to continue to serve my community in the private sector, which I believe is in my family and my best interest to accept,” Andrews said in an announcement made at his Haddon Heights, N.J., office.

Andrews, who has served in the House since 1990 and was facing an investigation of his use of campaign funds, said his decision was not politically motivated and had nothing to do with what is happening in Washington.

“It is a personal decision about the best path for my family,” Andrews said, explaining that he had to make a decision on the job quickly. He will depart Congress Feb. 18 to become head of the government affairs practice at the law firm Dilworth Paxson.

“I am looking forward to utilizing the skills, experiences, and perspectives I have developed in these years in public service in ways that I believe will help our community and our country in the private sector,” Andrews said.

President Barack Obama thanked Andrews for his service and partnership, and commended him for serving the “people of southern New Jersey with tenacity and skill.”

“He helped put into place key workplace protections for hard-working Americans, pushed to improve education for American students, and fought for clean energy programs to foster America’s energy independence,” Obama said in a statement. “More recently, Rob was an original author of the Affordable Care Act and has been a vital partner in its passage and implementation.”

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, called Andrews a “staunch advocate for our troops as well as their families” and praised his leadership and expertise on the committee.

“He was a leader on the committee on nuclear non-proliferation issues, seeking to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons, particularly to terrorists,” Smith said. “He worked to save tax payer dollars by pushing the Department of Defense to improve its acquisition processes. In short, Rob found a way to lend his intelligence and commitment to some of the most important issues within the committee’s jurisdiction.”

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A review of Andrews’ work by the Washington Post paints a different picture. According to the Post, none of the 646 pieces of legislation Andrews has introduced during his 23-year tenure has become law, making him “America’s least successful lawmaker.”
Andrews defended his work, telling the Post that many times legislation is added to larger bills and does not move on its own.
In his statement, Andrews listed his work on the health care bill first among his accomplishments. He also said he’s proud of the Direct Student Loan Program, which he co-authored, and his work on veterans’ issues, and he noted that in the last five years he has secured $1.5 billion in transportation improvements for the region.
Andrews said he has secured $60 million for police, firefighters and first responders, and $300 million for the Camden Housing Authority.
Andrews also said he hopes to be remembered for the 150,000 constituent issues he and his office have helped resolve.
“As I reflect on nearly 24 years of our service together, these very individual and personal opportunities to make a difference in a person's life stand out as my most memorable moments of service,” he said.
Andrews’ announcement comes on the heels of an announcement from Republican Rep. Jon Runyan that he would not seek re-election. Andrews’ vacancy, however, would likely require a special election.
New Jersey State Sen. Donald Norcross, a Democrat, announced Tuesday he will seek Andrews’ seat.
"I am running for Congress because South Jersey needs someone who is going to stand up for us in Washington, D.C., as Rob Andrews has done for more than two decades," Norcross said in a statement.
Andrews had sought to advance his career several times during his tenure in the House. He tried unsuccessfully in 2008 to challenge then-Sen. Frank Lautenberg. He had been considered to replace former Sen. Jon Corzine after Corzine’s gubernatorial victory, but Robert Menendez ended up getting the nod.
Andrews did not run in last year’s Senate election to replace the late Lautenberg. He said he was focusing on his role in House leadership.

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Last year, Andrews was named as co-chairman of the Democratic Steering and Planning Committee, a post that is part of the House Democratic leadership team.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that Andrews had been an “unflinching advocate” for the people of New Jersey while also emerging as “as an essential leader on the central issues facing our country – the jobs of our workers, the health security of our families, the strength of our military, and the safety of our nation.”
Pelosi commended Andrews for his work in passing the health care law and advocating for U.S. troops.
“He has been a critical voice for our Democratic caucus and for the entire Congress, and his leadership and friendship will be missed,” she said.
Still, Andrews had faced lingering ethics problems.
Last March, the House Ethics Committee said it would formally investigate allegations that Andrews improperly used campaign funds for personal use.
The panel, which operates largely in secret, said it voted to create an “investigative subcommittee” to determine if Andrews broke House rules.
Andrews, 56, denied any wrongdoing and called the allegations “politically motivated.”
The subcommittee was to investigate whether Andrews used campaign funds for personal expenses, such as a 2011 trip to Scotland for a wedding with his wife and two daughters. Andrews later repaid $30,000 in costs associated with the trip, according to investigative documents.
He also used campaign funds to host a June 2011 event at his home that has been described as both a graduation party for his daughter and a celebration of his congressional service. He spent additional campaign money to travel to Los Angeles, where his daughter was pursuing an acting career.
As news of Andrews’ plans to leave Congress spread in Washington, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called for the House Ethics Committee to complete its investigation of Andrews.
“The public deserves to see the results of the House Ethics Committee’s investigation into Rep. Andrews’ conduct, regardless of his plans to retire,” said Melanie Sloan, CREW executive director.

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“It is likely Rep. Andrews is leaving Congress early to prevent the release of the Ethics Committee’s report, which likely would prove highly embarrassing to the ethically challenged lawmaker, and undoubtedly would make securing a cushy, highly compensated position in the private sector much more difficult,” she added.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who represents a district adjacent to Andrews’ in southern New Jersey, said in a statement that he had enjoyed working with Andrews and wished him well.
“Whether it’s expanding transportation options to our region, protecting the communities along the Delaware River or ensuring our military has the resources they need, I’ve always found Rob to be a willing partner and tireless legislator,” LoBiondo said. “Though I respect the choice he’s made for himself and his family, his absence from Congress as an advocate for New Jersey’s families will truly be felt.”
Menendez, surprised by the news of Andrews’ departure, said he wished him the best.
“He’s been in the House a long time, so I guess he needs to provide for his family,” Menendez said.

Contact Malia Rulon Herman at or @mrulon