Insider: GOP Rep. Trott retires to avoid 'dialing for dollars'

U.S. Rep Dave Trott, R-Birmingham

As he prepares to retire from Congress, two-term U.S. Rep. Dave Trott said it's been a "great honor" to represent Michigan's 11th District, but it's unlikely he'll run for office again.

In a recent interview, the Birmingham Republican sounded relieved that he decided not to run for re-election in the competitive district that includes parts of Oakland and Wayne counties. After last month's election, Trott's seat will land in the Democratic hands of Rep.-elect Haley Stevens, who defeated GOP businesswoman Lena Epstein. 

"If I had run this time it certainly would have been a very difficult election, and I would have spent every waking moment for two years asking everyone I know — and people I don't know — for money," Trott said.

"That would have been my two years in Congress, and I just didn't want to do that."

Indeed, Trott said his primary motivation for retiring was that the job had become dominated by "dialing for dollars" — the need to always be raising money for the next campaign, he said.

"'Don't worry about legislating we'll give you a nice bill to pass, so you can talk about it in your commercials, but we don't need your help on policy or legislative matters,'" Trott said. "That's not why I went there to do."

If he were raising money for a charity, Trott said he'd have more motivation, but not to run 30-second negative ads about Stevens or another Democrat. 

President Donald Trump, the head of the GOP, was also a factor. 

"I disagree with some of the noise the president creates, and I struggle with it so, you know, spending two years on the campaign trail trying to defend or explain him — I didn't like the thought of that either," Trott said. 

"That being said, 63 million people never voted for me, so what do I know?" Trott added. "It's just not the right spot for me."

He has at times been frustrated by the dysfunctional way Congress operates, but he didn't go to Washington expecting a "high-functioning group," he said. 

"I'm happy to say the dysfunction is not because the people are morons. There are a lot of good Republicans and Democrats there that are trying to do the right thing," Trott said. 

"There are just some systemic things built into the House rules, and there's some things in the Constitution that make it a very deliberative, difficult process. It's designed to be that way. ... That's not the reason for my leaving."

One rule change to make the House function better would be to allow a bill with, say, 300 co-sponsors be debated and get a vote on the floor without leadership blocking it, Trott said.

He was a part of a group of Republicans who tried to force an immigration debate on the so-called Dreamers this summer against the wishes of leadership.

"The reality is the leadership on both sides don't want that to happen because that would require members in safe districts Democrat and Republicans take some tough votes which would result in them getting primaried," Trott said. 

"You know, life's rough. Too bad. We're there to take tough votes."    

Before joining Congress, Trott was a major GOP donor heading a foreclosure law firm.

He doesn't plan to practice law anymore but will get involved again in his title insurance and legal newspaper businesses, as well as some commercial real estate projects and his family's foundation, he said. 

"My biggest concern is I have to have a place to go if my if my wife gets sick of me," he joked.

"If I wake up every morning and say to her, what are we going to do today, she's going to say, you need to go back to work."

Stopping lame duck sessions

Some House lawmakers are angling to abolish the lame duck session, a weeks-long period between November elections and the end of the term in which lawmakers push through bills, some of them controversial.

The bipartisan resolution would require the Legislature on even numbered years to adjourn the Friday before the first Monday of November to remove those lame duck session days from the calendar.

One in three bills signed into law in the 2015-16 legislative season were signed into law after the November 2016 election, according to a statement from several House Democrats.

“Some of the worst bills passed in the last six years have happened during this period because there are legislators willing to exploit the fact that they’re two years from another election,” said Rep. Darrin Camilleri, a Democrat from Brownstown Township.

Republicans have argued that they are using all of the time allotted in a two-year session to finish legislative business.

A similar resolution to abolish lame duck was introduced in 2016 but was unsuccessful.

Poking fun at Snyder friendship

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley embraced social media commentary Wednesday concerning his friendship with outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder.

A photo from Snyder and Calley’s media roundtable Tuesday showed the lieutenant governor looking at Snyder while he spoke to media.

“Just trying to find a man who looks at me the way @briancalley looks at Gov. Snyder,” wrote Heather Sumner as she posted the photo on Twitter.

Calley responded back minutes later, saying “Good luck.”

The Portland Republican was asked to run as Snyder’s lieutenant governor while scooping mint chocolate chip ice cream at the St. John’s Mint Festival in 2010.

Contributors: Beth LeBlanc and Melissa Nann Burke