Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz spent his last full day in Congress not unlike a student on the last day of school. He presided over the floor of the House of Representatives as members debated a resolution on immigration, packed up his belongings and bid goodbye to his colleagues.
“It’s mixed emotions,” he said in a phone interview on Thursday. “I voluntarily did this, but no regrets. I’ve had a great run, it’s been an honor to serve, and a bit surreal that it’s coming to an end.”
After eight and half years in Congress, Chaffetz is stepping down from his post on Friday morning. And although he’s leaving the House, he plans to remain an active voice in politics.
Chaffetz was first elected to Congress in 2008 after serving as chief of staff to former Gov. Jon Huntsman. The Republican from Alpine rose quickly through the ranks and become a leading conservative critic of the Obama administration.
After being tapped to lead the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2014, Chaffetz led hard-charging investigations of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and left-leaning organizations like Planned Parenthood.
Justin Harding is a longtime friend and the congressman's former chief of staff. He said while many people recognize the partisan caricature critics painted of Chaffetz, fewer know his pragmatic side.
“Jason has an ability to look around corners, something that a lot of elected officials do not,” he said.
Harding said one of his favorite memories of working for Chaffetz was when, in 2014, the Utah congressman and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore visited each other’s home districts.
“Just that effort at bipartisanship to show that ‘Hey, we couldn’t be from two [more] different places — politically demographically, economically, geographically, but let’s find out what we have in common and let’s build a relationship on those commonalities,'" said Harding.
Chaffetz plans to join Fox News as an on-air contributor. Being on TV will not only pay better, he said, but allow him to remain involved in politics.
“It’s just allows me to continue to have a loud, amplified voice and be able to get out and talk to millions of people about issues I care about," said Chaffetz. "But in addition to that, I’ll do a variety of other things and have a better lifestyle than I have right now.”
Chaffetz said what he’ll miss most about Congress are his colleagues and the institution itself. As for the cot he notoriously slept on in his office all those years to save money, he said there are actually two of them. The original he plans to keep.
“I am going to bring it home; Julie thinks it’s a good memento and a good reminder of our time in Congress,” he said.
The other cot he tweeted a photo of on its way to the dumpster. Just a few hours later, though, and he posted again to say another member of Congress had already claimed it.