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Rep. Brad Wenstrup to retire

Sixth-term Ohio Republican and coronavirus panel chairman vows to reveal COVID-19 origins before leaving

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, is seen outside a House Republican Conference meeting in the Longworth Building on Oct. 24.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, is seen outside a House Republican Conference meeting in the Longworth Building on Oct. 24. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, an Ohio podiatric surgeon representing what is considered a safe Republican Cincinnati-area seat in Congress, announced late Thursday that he will retire at the end of this term.

Wenstrup, 65, who was first elected in 2012,  joins Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va.., in announcing plans to retire from Congress on Thursday.

In a nearly three-and-a-half-minute video, Wenstrup, the chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, vowed to “run through the tape” before he leaves Congress, working to “help reveal the facts about the origins of COVID.”

“This work will help our nation predict, prepare for and possibly prevent the next pandemic,” Wenstrup said in the video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

He cited his wife, Monica, and his two young children, Brad Jr. and Sophia, in his decision to leave Congress.

“Sadly, all too often the frantic pace of Washington has kept me away from our home,” he said. “I’m ready to change that. So I want you to hear it from me first: I’ll be retiring from Congress at the end of next year.”

Wenstrup, who is also a member of the Ways and Means and Intelligence committees and is a co-chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus, gained some fame for being the first to respond during the 2017 shooting at a GOP congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. Five people, including House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., were shot before police engaged with and killed the shooter. 

Wenstrup, a retired Army reservist who spent 2005 and 2006 operating on civilians, servicemembers and prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, eventually ran to then-Majority Whip Scalise, who had been shot at second base and who had tried to drag himself toward the dugout by first base.

Accompanied by then-Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and then-Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Wenstrup helped to treat Scalise’s wounds. Scalise, who was critically wounded, was eventually airlifted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center and recovered from his injuries.

“I heard the words ‘shooter down,’ and in seconds Brad Wenstrup was by my side,” Scalise later said. “I call him my hero. I am here today because of Brad Wenstrup. There is no doubt.”

In 2018, Wenstrup was again a first responder, helping after a train carrying about 100 Republican lawmakers to a GOP policy retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck near Crozet, Va., killing one person. Wenstrup and other GOP doctors were among those to treat the injured in the aftermath of the accident. No lawmakers were seriously injured.

Wenstrup, an Army reservist from 1998 to 2022, retired with the rank of colonel. He was awarded a Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge for his service. In 2018, Wenstrup was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for heroism in responding to the baseball practice shooting.

Though deeply conservative, Wenstrup joined with Democrats in 2021 in backing legislation to prevent patients from receiving “surprise” medical bills for unexpected out-of-network care and to set up an arbitration process for the bills. Later, he led 150 lawmakers in a November 2021 letter asking the Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor departments to change how they plan to regulate the arbitration process.

When COVID-19 vaccines were available to the public, Wenstrup and fellow members of the GOP Doctors Caucus encouraged people to get the vaccine. Still, he pushed back on federal vaccine mandates, saying that they are too political and actually discourage people from getting vaccinated.

As head of the coronavirus panel, he expressed deep skepticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic and its decision to fund controversial research in China. He’s subpoenaed multiple Biden administration officials as part of his investigation into the origins of the virus.

He also used his medical expertise to focus on the issue of opioid addiction, advocating for non-opioid treatments to manage pain and says lawmakers need to do more to prevent opioid addiction.

A Cincinnati native, Wenstrup represents a district that backed former President Donald Trump by 45 percentage points in 2020. Wenstrup won reelection in 2022 with nearly 75 percent of the vote. 

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