By Nolan Finley, Detroit News

Apparently Potomac Fever is curable.

Two Michigan congressmen at the pinnacle of their influence are doing something that is practically unheard of: leaving Congress without being carried out or booted out.

Camp RogersDave Camp and Mike Rogers, both Republicans, upended Michigan politics over the past week by announcing they won’t seek re-election. The news came out of nowhere, and has set the political hot stove league to chattering about the whys and wherefores of their decisions.

It’s not as puzzling as it seems.

Both are currently sitting on glittering thrones in Congress — Camp as head of the uber powerful ways and means committee and Rogers as chair of the increasingly visible intelligence committee.

And both face not being in those glamor spots in January.

Unlike their Democratic colleagues, who value seniority over all else, including competency (witness Detroit’s John Conyers still sitting as ranking member of the justice committee), Republicans limit most of their committee chairs to three terms, or six years (time spent as ranking member when the party is in the minority counts toward the total).

Midland’s Camp has hit the term limit. So unless Speaker John Boehner waives the rule — not likely since Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan is next up as ways and means chair — Camp will be just another member of Congress at the end of the year.

That’s a huge deal. In Washington, there are few folks higher on the A-list than congressional committee chairs. It’s a powerful role. Chairs decide what legislation gets to the floor and in what form.

That means they’re in line for a lot of fanny kissing — and political contributions — from a lot of places. After you’ve been bowed and scraped to and reverently called Mr. Chairman at cocktail parties for six years, going back to the cheap seats is a bitter pill to swallow.

Since the intelligence committee chair is appointed by the speaker, and not elected, Rogers is not subject to term limits. Boehner could reappoint him if he chooses. But apparently he didn’t get the commitment he sought for another term. And there’s some doubt Boehner will be re-elected as speaker.

So with a job offer as a nationally syndicated radio host pending, Rogers weighed the risk and decided to walk.

Both Camp and Rogers were heavily courted as the Republican candidate for the Senate seat Carl Levin is vacating. Knowing their chairmanships were likely coming to an end, why didn’t they make the leap?

Quite likely because they know what most of us outside Washington don’t fully appreciate: Being a senator ain’t what it used to be. That explains why a rare open Senate seat in Michigan drew just one candidate from each of the two major parties.

It’s primarily a fundraising job. The contenders in Michigan will have to raise between $10 million and $15 million on their own for this election, and the winner will have to start all over again collecting a similar amount for the next campaign.

The Senate also has become an impotent institution. Even less gets done there than in the House. And going from a House committee chair to a low seniority senator would be like starting over in Washington.

Camp, 60, is a homebody who returns to Michigan most weekends. He also just fought off cancer. Rogers, 50, is an extrovert who loves the microphone and will now have one of his very own.

Not such a surprise, then, that they decided perhaps there is a life after Congress.
Follow Nolan Finley on Twitter at @nolanfinleydn and watch him at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on “MiWeek” on Channel 56.