During his 12 years in office, U.S. Rep. Todd Platts has become known for living in York County while driving to and from sessions Washington, D.C., for refusing to take PAC money, and for hanging out on the aisle to shake hands with the president when he enters the House chamber to give his state-of-the-union address.

Another perennial tradition for Platts is proposing a measure that would limit congressional terms to 12 years. And that, he said, is what finally convinced him to step down.

"I've always believed in my heart turnover is a good thing," Platts said.

Platts made the announcement during a news conference at his Springettsbury Township district office on Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Todd Platts’ sister, Pam Lee, left, and mother, Babs Platts, react during a press conference Tuesday where Platts announced he was retiring
U.S. Rep. Todd Platts' sister, Pam Lee, left, and mother, Babs Platts, react during a press conference Tuesday where Platts announced he was retiring from Congress at the end of the year. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - KATE PENN)
Standing alongside him were his wife, Leslie, and his two sons, Tom and T.J.

Other family members and friends sat off to the side, and Platts remarked to his mother, Babs Platts, afterwards that he was proud of himself for getting through the announcement without tears.

"This is a very emotional day," Platts said.

Platts told a roomful of reporters that he has no immediate plans, other than serving out the rest of his term. He also said that he isn't endorsing a successor now, and will leave that to residents of his district.

Todd Platts said that he, his wife, and children would sit down every time he was re-elected for another two years, and discuss whether or not he should go for another term.

This year, he said, the 12-year mark was a big factor in that decision. .

Another factor, he said, was a job offer he received in December. Platts declined to say what that job was, and whether it was in the public or private sector. But he said it was a very attractive offer that he turned down because he felt obliged to finish out his term.

He said he decided last week not to run, and didn't tell any other lawmakers or Republican party officials until Tuesday.

Platts said the recent congressional redistricting that places the city of Harrisburg within his district was not a factor. In fact, he said he delayed telling anyone about his plans to step down until the state commission handling the redistricting finalized its plans, out of concerns that the district might be carved up if he left before that.

He also said recent feuds with leadership of the York 912 Patriots, a local Tea Party group, didn't play a role in his decision.

"They're entitled to their opinion," Platts said. "But if anything, the attacks of their leadership weighed in favor of me running again."

Several York 912 Patriots members, on hearing of the news conference, showed up at the office.

Scott Burkholder, a founding member of the group, said they weren't allowed in, and were told the event was only for members of the media, family and friends. They waited in the parking lot during the news conference. Burkholder said he found that objectionable, because Platts is a public official and the office is paid for out of taxpayer funds.

Burkholder also said he considers the York 912 Patriots to be responsible in part for Platts' decision, because they've been holding his feet to the fire.

"I think if it wasn't for the York 912 Patriots, we wouldn't be having this press conference," Burkholder said.

But Platts said he has no apologies for his record as a lawmaker.

Photos and memorabilia sit on U.S. Rep. Todd Platts’ desk as he announces his intention to retire from Congress Tuesday.
Photos and memorabilia sit on U.S. Rep. Todd Platts' desk as he announces his intention to retire from Congress Tuesday. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - KATE PENN)

During his time in office, Platts has taken a particular interest in government accountability, chairing the House Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management.

He's also made repeated visits to Afghanistan and Iraq on fact-finding missions.

Legislation in which he takes particular pride includes whistleblower protection that he championed in 2007; legislation, which became law, that required the Department of Homeland Security to be subject to the same standards of accountability as other federal departments; and legislation he co-sponsored to raise fuel efficiency standards on cars and light trucks from 25 mpg to 35 mpg, which also became law.

And for the remaining year of his term, Platts said he intends to conduct himself with the same standards as he has over the last 11 years.

"I will remain an engaged servant of the people until the end of my term in office," Platts said.

'It only happens in America'

Immediately after the Tuesday afternoon press conference at which he announced his imminent retirement as a federal lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, R-York County, told a story that for him summed up what being a congressman was about.

When Platts took office as a freshman lawmaker, in 2001, his father Russell "Dutch" Platts accompanied him to Washington, D.C. There, the older Platts had an opportunity to meet George W. Bush, and get his picture taken with the new president.

In June of that year, Platts' father died. The next month, Platts was in Washington, D.C., again when he ran into Bush. Bush invited Platts to accompany him to the presidential motorcade.

As they walked, Bush expressed his condolences. He talked about how he sometimes worries about the long-term health of his father, George Herbert Walker Bush.

Platts said he appreciated the gesture. But afterward, he found himself reflecting. His father had grown up in a house in York during the Great Depression. He wasn't rich or famous. But after he died, a U.S. president was talking about him.

"It only happens in America," Platts said. "We are the land of opportunity."

More on Platts

Moveon.org has attacked him as a knee-jerk conservative, and the local tea party has attacked him as a flaming liberal.

Redstate.org did an article on him in October titled "Returning an Obscure Congressman to Permanent Obscurity." In 2010, Esquire named him one of the country's 10 best members of Congress.

Capitol Hill newspaper "Roll Call" named him one of the "most obscure" members of Congress - a not-necessarily-pejorative distinction given to lawmakers more known for being workhorses than showhorses. Yet he's also gained a reputation as something of a maverick in his caucus, willing to buck the party leadership on key pieces of legislation.

He's been praised and criticized both as a steadfast GOP loyalist, and an across-the-aisle compromiser.

He ticks people off. He hands out his mom's homemade fudge.

He's Todd Platts.

During his 11 years in Congress, the following are some of his most noteworthy accomplishments:

  • Lead Republican sponsor of legislation signed into law in January 2011, designed to give Congress better tools to better evaluate the effectiveness of federal government programs.

  • Lead Republican sponsor of legislation signed into law in June, 2009, to give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products for the first time.

  • In 2007, lead Republican sponsor of the first increase in fuel efficiency standards signed into law in more than 30 years.

    Some of the measures on which he's opposed his caucus leadership include:

  • In 2010, voted to repeal the Department of Defense's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which bars openly gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women from serving in the military.

  • In 2007, supported changes to the Whistleblower Protection Act, tightening protection of federal employees who disclose waste, fraud and abuse.

  • In 2001, supported a House companion bill to the Senate's McCain-Feingold bill, calling for campaign finance reform.

  • Has consistently opposed school vouchers since 2001.

    Platts' stance on major issues:

    War in Iraq: Yes

    Financial bailouts of 2008: No

    Economic Stimulus Act of 2008: No

    Healthcare reform of 2010: No

    Also of interest

    Who will run for Platts' seat?

    An earlier story from Tuesday, local reaction, a video and more photos

    Platts' career timeline

    Storify: Platts' retirement brings out supporters, critics, and some quirky stuff

    10 stories capture lives and times of past U.S. congressmen from York County, Pa.