On August 14, 2012, Stearns lost to veterinarian Ted Yoho in a four-way Republican primary by about 1 percent of the vote. Due to redistricting every 10 years, Stearns ran in a new district that did not include his hometown and one of his staunch bases of support. After the primary election, Stearns called Yoho to congratulate him and Yoho described Stearns as "classy" and "humble" in his remarks.
During the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida in August, the Florida delegation honored Stearns and his service with a standing ovation and speakers talked about his record of accomplishments and the loss to the state of a leader with so much seniority in Congress.
In 2012, Stearns donated a collection of his papers to The George Washington University. The collection largely consists of his committee work, but also includes personal and political correspondence, briefing books, and travel agendas. The collection is currently under the care of GW's Special Collections Research Center, located in the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library.
In 2006 the College of Central Florida named their Learning Resource Center Library to honor Stearns' service to his district. Upon leaving Congress in 2013, Stearns donated his books and awards to the special collections at the library, including highlighted pieces of legislation signed by Presidents' Bush, Clinton and Obama. The special collection also includes his desk, chair and associated memorabilia creating a replica of a congressional office for students and community to enjoy.
In October 2013, the Learning Resource Center Library celebrated Constitution Day honoring Stearns, where he autographed copies of the Constitution and spoke to students and community leaders.
Since leaving the United States Congress after 24 years, he is employed with APCO Worldwide which is a communications and public relations firm headquartered in Washington D.C. Stearns is also a member of APCO Worldwide International Advisory Council (IAC) which comprises more than 70 recognized global leaders including former elected politicians who advise clients on complex issues. In addition, he is on three boards namely, The Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University, Minority Media & Telecom Council and The United States Association of Former Members of Congress.
In July 2016, Cliff Stearns was elected President of the United States Association of Former Members of Congress (USAFMC) whose mission it is to educate high school and college students about the three branches of our Government. USAFMC strengthens the message of representative democracy and NGOs and other organizations to support the growth of democracy around the globe with study groups in Germany, Japan, Turkey and Europe.
Stearns is a member of the ReFormers Caucus of Issue One.
Stearns was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Emily E. (Newlin) and Clifford Robert Stearns. He was educated at Woodrow Wilson High School, and later earned a degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University. He is also a member of the University's Gamma Beta Chapter of Theta Tau, a professional/social engineering fraternity, and participated in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps there and was honored as the Air Force ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate.
Following graduation, he served four years in the United States Air Force as an aerospace engineer in satellite reconnaissance during the Vietnam War. Stearns owned a small chain of motels and restaurants in northern Florida. Before moving to Florida, he worked with a variety of businesses in Florida, such as CBS, Data Control Systems Inc, and Kutola Advertising.1988–2004
In 1988, incumbent Democratic U.S. Congressman Buddy MacKay of Florida's 6th congressional district decided to run for the U.S. Senate. Stearns and Jim Cherry qualified for a run-off election, since no one reached the 50% threshold in the six-candidate primary election. Cherry received 32% to Stearns's 26%. In the run-off, Stearns defeated Cherry 54%–46%. In the general election, Stearns defeated State Representative Jon Mills 53%–47%. Until 2012, he never won re-election with less than 59% of the vote.2006
Stearns was re-elected with 60% of the vote.2008
Stearns was re-elected with 61% of the vote.2010
Stearns was re-elected with 71% of the vote.2012
Redistricting after the 2010 census shifted Stearns' home in Ocala to the 11th District (the old 5th District), but shifted the bulk of his territory to the Gainesville-based 3rd District. Rather than challenge freshman Republican Rich Nugent in the 11th, Stearns opted to run in the 3rd, which contained two-thirds of his former territory.
In the Republican primary for the 3rd—the real contest in this heavily Republican district—Stearns lost to Ted Yoho by only some 800 votes, about 1 percent of the vote, in the Republican primary.
Stearns is a signer of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
Stearns is a member of the Electronic Cigarette Association and supports the use of these products.
On September 29, 2008, Stearns voted against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008
As Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, Stearns led the investigation into the Solyndra loan guarantee, which has resulted in Solyndra declaring bankruptcy and the taxpayers losing $535 million. Among the revelations in the investigation are multiple warnings from government officials against giving Solyndra the loan because the company's health was shaky. Even so, the White House pressed for a speedy review. The company, which faced a highly competitive environment, went bankrupt and was raided by the FBI for possible fraud
Although the White House instituted an internal review of the loan guarantee program, Stearns believes that the review should have occurred before the Obama administration handed out the money
Stearns received emails showing that the White House had a major influence on the loan guarantee as well as on the Solyndra loan restructuring that subordinated the taxpayers to two commercial firms in violation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Stearns led the congressional effort involving the meningitis outbreak. As of November 14, 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 32 deaths and that 438 people have been sickened across 19 states. An investigation determined that the New England Compounding Center(NECC) was the source of the contaminated product. As Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Stearns held a hearing on this outbreak.
During the hearing, Stearns stated the outbreak was preventable had the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acted. The FDA knew of severe quality control violations at NEC as early as 2002, and in 2006 the FDA threatened NECC if it did not comply with regulations. During the hearing, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg testified that the FDA lacked the authority to close down NECC.
Stearns noted that the FDA had authority to close NECC, but simply failed to protect the American people. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, deputy commissioner of the FDA from 2005–07 and Mr. SheldonBradshaw, FDA's chief counsel during that same period, disagreed strongly with Hamburg. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed on November 13, 2012, they stated unequivocally that FDA did have enough authority and could have acted but chose not to because of FDA’s desire to regulate "the full scope of the practice of pharmacy." They further stated that NECC’s illegal actions, which FDA was aware of, that "put the NECC firmly in violation of FDA rules-if the agency had chosen to enforce existing provisions."
As Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Stearns conducted the first-ever oversight on taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States. National Public Radio reported, "Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest single provider of abortions, yet it gets millions of dollars in federal funding with which to provide other services.".
The investigation was started in response to an investigative report released in July 2011 by the pro-life organization Americans United for Life (AUL). According to AUL, "Audits of Planned Parenthood affiliates in California, New Jersey, New York, and Washington State demonstrate a pattern of overbilling and abuse involving Medicaid funds, and in at least Washington even charging drugs used in an abortion as 'family planning.' Furthermore, State audit reports and admissions by former Planned Parenthood employees detail a pattern of misuse of federal funds by some Planned Parenthood affiliates."
The investigation was sweeping, requesting internal audits dating back 12 years and state audits for the past 20 years for the national organization and all 83 of its affiliates. Representative Henry Waxman questioned the political motivations for the timing of the investigation, saying, "Your fervent ideological opposition to Planned Parenthood does not justify launching this intrusive investigation."
On January 31, 2012, The Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization stopped funding Planned Parenthood, stating that the congressional investigation by Stearns triggered a newly created internal rule about not funding organizations under any federal, state or local investigation. (Planned Parenthood is regularly audited to ensure compliance with the Hyde Amendment: these audits have never turned up any evidence of wrongdoing.) While the move was applauded by conservative religious and pro-life groups, it was denounced by several newspaper editorials, women's health advocacy groups, and politicians. Four days later, Komen's Board of Directors reversed the decision and announced that it would amend the policy to "make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political". Several top-level staff members resigned from Komen during the controversy.
Stearns held several economic roundtables throughout the district, meeting with business owners, bankers, and realtors to get their views on improving the creating of jobs. Last year, he sponsored four homeowner workshops in Ocala, Gainesville, Jacksonville, and Orange Park. He brought in realtors, bankers, and mortgage experts to help people who are having trouble making their payments – they also provided essential information for first-time homebuyers.
In meeting with community bankers from Florida, he learned that 70% of Florida’s community banks are under some kind of regulatory order that reduce capital for businesses to grow and loans to revitalize the housing industry.
He took a leadership role for the Florida delegation in sending a letter to Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairman Sheila Bair, claiming that banking examiners may be pursuing an unreasonably tough analysis of Florida banks’ asset quality and are regularly requiring downgrades of performing loans.
Stearns was one of only 39 House members to receive an "A" rating from the National Taxpayers Union (NTU). In addition, in 2010 Citizens Against Government Waste once again named Stearns a "Taxpayer Hero."
Stearns also is a strong opponent of automatic congressional pay raises. He also offered legislation to prevent a pay increase in a year following a federal budget deficit.
In fiscal years 2008–2010, Stearns sponsored 46 earmarks totaling $85,810,100.
Stearns voted for Cut, Cap & Balance & the Boehner Debt Ceiling Bill; however, he voted against the final Debt Ceiling compromise bill (The "Budget Control Act of 2011").
Throughout his tenure, Stearns served on the Veterans Affairs Committee. He advocates for increased funding for the VA and pushed to establish a VA cemetery in the Jacksonville area. He supports the VA's CARES plan to develop a new Regional Health Care Facility in Marion County and the expansion of the VA Hospital in Gainesville with a new 230-bed patient tower. The groundbreaking for this addition occurred in 2008. His Veterans Millennium Health care & Benefits Act and language from his VA Health Care Personnel Act to increase pay for VA health professionals were signed into law.
Stearns has been working on extending privacy protection for about 10 years. In 2003, the International Association of Privacy Professionals gave Stearns its Privacy Leadership Award for his efforts on leadership, including holding the most extensive hearings on privacy issues as Chairman of the Commerce, Trade & Consumer Protection Subcommittee.
On April 13, 2011, Stearns offered bi-partisan legislation to protect consumer privacy on line—H.R. 1528, the Consumer Privacy Protection Act. The goal is to encourage greater levels of electronic commerce by providing to Internet users the assurance that their experience online will be more secure.
Stearns also is a leader in opposing net neutrality.
Stearns voted for the Patriot Act.
Stearns is the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversigh and Investigations Subcommittee. From 2001 until 2007, Stearns was Chairman of the Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee and he still serves on the Subcommittee. He helped to create the Do-Not-Call List to protect consumers from unwanted telephone solicitations and legislation to combat spyware, which is software that allows a third party to monitor the computer use of individuals without their knowledge.
Stearns was a member of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, a bi-partisan forum for discussing and disseminating information about renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Stearns’ paper on developing clean-coal technology and applying coal-to-liquid technology was published in December 2008 in the Stanford Law & Policy Review.
During consideration of cap-and-trade legislation in the Energy and Commerce Committee in May 2009, Stearns offered an amendment to afford existing nuclear power plants the same benefits provided to new nuclear power plants in the bill. The amendment simply recognized that nuclear is carbon free and did not provide any new subsidy to the industry.
In 2008, Stearns joined in offering a package of bills to increase domestic energy production. This included more domestic oil and gas production, greater use of clean-coal technology, reducing the barriers to new nuclear power plants, and encouraging renewable energy sources.
Like every other member of Congress, Stearns held town meetings and conducted nearly 560 of these events. In addition, he held over 40 tele-town halls.
Served on the Munroe Regional Community Hospital Board of Directors, the Board of the Ocala Boys and Girls Club, and was President of the Ocala Kiwanis Club. Was also active with the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce and President of the local Motel/Restaurant Association.
During consideration of the health care legislation, Stearns offered the following amendments:Provide tax deduction for health care;
Require the President, Supreme Court Justices, and Members of Congress to buy their coverage of the Exchange:
Eliminate the tax on medical devices;
Repeal the cuts to Medicare Advantage.
During the debate over compensation for 9/11 first responders and others, Stearns advocated a "standard re-authorization and appropriation process". Congressman Stearns submitted an amendment that was adopted without opposition to H.R.#847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, that would screen thousands of non-first responders and First Responders who submit claims for chronic medical conditions against a Department of Homeland Security terrorist watch list (original committee markup referenced).
Bars fund for IRS to implement the Spanish language for tax refunds.
Increase funding for nuclear energy activities at the Department of Energy.
Prohibit funds to be used by the Internal Revenue Service to implement a Spanish-language version of the "Where's my Refund?" service.
Cut $25.5 million from AmeriCorps and increase funding for TRIO educational programs and the geriatric program.
Prohibit use of funds for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for litigation expenses incurred in connection with cases against employers on the grounds that such employers require employees to speak English.Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade
Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (Chairman)
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Subcommittee on Health
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Caucus (Co-Chairman)
Congressional Cystic Fibrosis Caucus (Co-Chairman)
Congressional Horse Caucus (Co-Chairman)
Congressional Air Force Caucus (Co-Chairman)
Transatlantic Legislators Dialogue (Vice-Chairman)
Biomedical Research Caucus
Bipartisan Congressional Pro Life Caucus
Bipartisan Privacy Caucus
Canada-US Interparliamentary Union
Community College Caucus
Congressional Caucus on Adoption
Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues
Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans
Congressional Caucus on Poland
Congressional Caucus on Taiwan
Congressional Caucus on US-Turkey Relations and Turkish Americans
Congressional Cyber Security Caucus
Congressional Friends of Liechtenstein Caucus
Congressional Invisible Wounds Caucus
Congressional Internet Caucus
Congressional Israel Allies Caucus
Congressional Media Fairness Caucus
Congressional Prayer Caucus
Congressional Ship Building Caucus
Congressional Singapore Caucus
Congressional Sovereignty Caucus
Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus
Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus
Congressional Wireless Caucus
House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus
Immigration Reform Caucus
New Media Caucus
Republican Study Committee (RSC)
Tea Party Caucus
Stearns lives in Ocala, Florida with his wife, Joan (née Moore). They have three grown sons. One of his great-great-grandfathers was 19th century Ohio congressman Hezekiah S. Bundy.
Mr. Stearns recently published his first book entitled ‘Life in the Marble Palace: In Praise of Folly’ which gives an insider’s look into the ‘belly’ of American politics. His book identifies the Legislative Branch weak points and offers his analysis on the current system-what works, what doesn’t and what needs to be done.
Also published while serving in Congress:
a. ‘U.S. Coal Reserves Key to National and Energy Security’
Stanford Law & Policy Review
b. ‘The Heritage Of Our Right To Bear Arms’
Saint Louis University Public Law Review”