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With 48 hours left in office, then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sat down with Chuck Todd to talk about his time in Congress, the cost that his family paid for his tenure in Washington, and why he was leaving when his party was in power. The full interview is available in the latest 1947: The Meet the Press Podcast.
For some, serving in Congress can feel like toil. Many Representatives spend years working as junior members of a committee, or sit on the sidelines as members of a party that’s out of power. Chaffetz leaves at the top - he was the chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee, and he was a figure with a nationally recognizable name. So when he announced his retirement earlier this year, many suspected he had greater ambitions.
“I really do believe you should get in, serve, and get out,” Chaffetz said. “I don't believe in term limits. I don't think you should force it.”
Despite rumors of a run for the Senate or Utah’s Governorship, Chaffetz says that it was the distance from his family that made him want to return home.
“There was one point where I remember, I left on a Monday and I came home on a Friday night and I told our youngest daughter Kate, I said Kate, ‘Hey, I'm back.’ And she said, ‘Oh, I didn't even know you were gone.’” Chaffetz explained. “It stabbed me in the heart.”
Another factor is the cost of commuting across the country. After all, life in Washington can be expensive. Chaffetz would often sleep on a cot in his office, but would pay for hotel when his wife visited. “I can't afford to pay the Marriot Corporation $400 every night in order to stay and be here with her.“
Referring to his time in Congress as a ride on “the crazy train,” Chaffetz – a polarizing figure to some – lamented the lack of debate between members who disagree.
“I like the debate. That's what we were supposed to come and do. We do very little debating. A lot of showboating. A lot of single-handed speeches. But not a lot of actual debates.”
More than anything else, Chaffetz says he’s excited to be leaving behind the fundraising that comes with elections.
“That's something I will not miss – I promise you that – is begging people for money.”
Now that he’s a private citizen, Chaffetz will appear as a contributor on Fox News.