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High-profile House retirements reflect the toxicity on Capitol Hill

The burgeoning House Republican caucus, which aims to leave after this Congress, is vocal about a common disturbing theme driving their decisions: the toxicity of life on Capitol Hill.

The group includes many young and powerful lawmakers, some of whom hold powerful gavels on committees, but they say they have reached their limit.

The number of outgoing committee chairs and public disillusionment both reflect concerns that a wave of retirements in the majority party could lead to an exodus of aging veteran members and/or a reversal of control of the House. This represents a marked contrast to past cycles, which could have been more volatile. . If dissatisfaction with the system was a factor, it was rarely talked about out loud.

But while the House is certainly up for grabs this year, Republicans who recently left the party seem to be thinking about it as an afterthought. Rather, many of them work in Congress, where internal Republican conflicts have clouded the task of enacting legislation, and where the most incendiary voices are rewarded with national fundraising, media attention, and political celebrity. He cites his anger as the reason.

“Electoral politics was never meant to be a career,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Select Committee on China. “Trust me, Congress is not the place to grow old. ” he said when announcing his retirement. Early this month.

He is never alone.

Just two days ago, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, 54, R-Wash., a 20-year veteran and current chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, announced her intention to leave Congress at the end of this term. And last week, Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), 59, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, followed suit, announcing his resignation after six years on Capitol Hill.

They join two other committee leaders, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), who heads the appropriations division, and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R.N.C.), who holds the gavel for Financial Services. , demanded that the committee be cancelled. The two have nearly 50 years of experience in Congress.

Without the waivers, Granger and McHenry would have been term-limited from their top positions next year. But some said Mr. Gallagher, Mr. McMorris Rodgers and Mr. Greene should have been entitled to remain in place, and that their work there was largely wasted due to dysfunction in the Capitol.

“Our country and our Congress are broken almost beyond repair,” Greene said in announcing her decision. “We realized that our fight is not here within Washington, but against Washington.”

With the number of outgoing committee chairs, some believe that the typical “brain drain” that accompanies inevitable resignations every other year will become more pronounced this year among members of both parties, and will have a major impact on how the House functions next year. There are growing concerns that this will not happen. meeting.

“We are falling apart and we have a lot of anxiety. Yes, we are chipping away at some of the organized people that are here. And when I say that, I mean to the fullest. I say that as a compliment,” said seven-term veteran Rep. Steve Womack (R-Arkansas). “These are guys who’ve been around for a while. They’re smart guys. They’re experienced guys.

“And I don’t see how losing so many veteran members of Congress does anything but jeopardize our ability to manage the problems of the American people the way they should be managed.”

However, not all Republicans are lamenting the recent exodus of senior members from the House. Indeed, some have welcomed this and are hopeful that the outgoing institutionalists will be replaced by a more hawkish group of conservative purists — mob agitators in October This index was set when former House Speaker McCarthy (R-Calif.) was ousted in the presidential election. Willingness to cut budget agreements with the White House.

“The current Republican team can’t save America. We have to get tougher and smarter. We need newer, bolder voices in the House,” he said of the vote to remove McCarthy from office. said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), an ally of former President Trump who pushed through the bill.

“The ‘institutional knowledge’ that I am accused of erasing is often knowledge acquired by members of Congress to line their own pockets, trade stocks, and sell out We the People,” he added. Ta. Post to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “The next step in our plan is to replace the retiring group of members with America First Patriots.”

Others rejected the idea that a toxic environment is forcing lawmakers to retire, arguing that it makes sense for veterans to seek a change of venue after so many years in Washington.

“It makes sense for the speaker to do his job and leave,” said Rep. Byron Donald (R-Fla.). “My friend Patrick McHenry — Patrick’s been on Capitol Hill for 18 years, you know? He’s got young kids. He’s like, OK, he can retire and move on with his life. What?”

Still, enough Republican lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction on their way out, suggesting a weakened Congress.

“Washington, D.C., is falling apart right now,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), announcing her retirement after four terms. “It’s difficult to accomplish anything.”

Mr. Gallagher’s decision in particular caught many of his colleagues by surprise. The 39-year-old is a Marine Corps veteran and earned his Ph.D. from Georgetown University – was widely seen as a rising star in the Republican conference.

But he also infuriated many Republicans inside and outside the Capitol when he defied Republican leaders and voted against impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, if he were to run for re-election. This led to open speculation that if he did, he would face a strong challenger from the right. . He announced his retirement three days after the vote.

These dynamics shine a bright light on opposing factions within the Republican Party, with system-minded members, moderates seeking legislative compromise, and those demanding ideological purity from Republican leaders and bipartisan consensus. This puts him at odds with the conservative agitators in the Freedom Caucus, who place great emphasis on Surrender to President Biden.

There is perhaps no better example of this situation. Earlier this month, House conservatives rejected a compromise border security deal negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators, including one of the most conservative, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). Members of Parliament. The Senate talks began after Republicans called for any aid to Ukraine to be combined with border security.

But conservatives, at President Trump’s urging, argue that bipartisan policy doesn’t go far enough and won’t resolve the situation at the southern border, forcing lawmakers to push the quest to send aid overseas back to square one. Ta.

Mr. Trump’s role in pushing hard for a border deal reflected his control over the Republican conference. As Trump advances towards the Republican presidential nomination, his grip has tightened and continues to cause headaches for Republican lawmakers.

His “America First” foreign policy views and support for election denialism have further exacerbated rifts within the Republican Party, and even more acutely in the Republican conference, where Trump’s staunchest allies and his few remaining critics It puts us at odds.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), a five-term congressman who is retiring at the end of this year, is known for his willingness to break away from the Republican Party on a variety of issues, including Mayorkas’ impeachment and Republican confirmation. Ta. 2020 presidential election results.

However, his party’s continued promotion of election denialism was the final straw.

In a video announcing his retirement, Buck said, “Our country is on a collision course with reality, and grappling with the truth, even the uncomfortable truth, is the only way forward.” he said. “Too many Republican leaders have lied to America, claimed the 2020 election was stolen, described January 6th as a self-guided tour of the Capitol, and given their subsequent prosecutions the power of our justice system. They claim that it is the weaponization of

The mass exodus of MPs has so far resulted in a particularly unproductive parliament, which has seen two speaker elections, the first-ever speaker removal, a near economic default, and several shutdown cliffs that have led to scrambles among members. It happened in the middle of nowhere.

Much of this turmoil is the result of divisions within the Republican conference. Republican lawmakers have seen six rules votes rejected this Congress, three from the McCarthy administration and three from his successor, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana). ) was carried out under. The most recent example was last week, when 18 Republicans joined Democrats in breaking rules to advance two bills.

The typically run-of-the-mill partisan vote has become a favorite way for conservatives to challenge leadership, stirring up rank-and-file lawmakers eager for legislation.

“People are dissatisfied,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong, RN.D., who is not running for a second term in the House of Representatives for Flickertail governor. “I’m frustrated in another way because, like I said, the rules failed yesterday with 18 Republican votes. We didn’t miss a beat. We have just moved on to the next vote.”

“It’s like a legal majority tool, and we’ve just fully accepted the fact that we’re not going to use it anymore.”

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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