A growing number of Republican lawmakers are making plans to leave Congress. Five retirement announcements in the past two weeks could signal the start of a bigger GOP exodus before the 2020 elections.
Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas on Wednesday became the latest Republican to say he will not seek reelection to Congress next year, following recent similar announcements by fellow Texan Pete Olson, Paul Mitchell of Michigan, Martha Roby of Alabama, and Rob Bishop of Utah. A total of seven Republicans have said they will retire, and two others have already said they are running for different offices.
Republicans are adjusting to the challenges of life in the minority in the House as senior lawmakers reach party-defined term limits in committee leadership positions. Conaway and Bishop both noted their time serving as the top GOP member on committees was drawing to a close.
Increasing partisanship has also grated on them. “Rhetoric overwhelms policy, and politics consumes much of the oxygen in this city,” Mitchell said on the House floor recently. Roby also previously sparred publicly with President Donald Trump, creating challenges with fellow Republicans.
While many of those who have announced retirements come from solidly GOP districts, others like Olson would likely have faced tough reelection bids. Like other representatives from suburban districts, Olson saw his margin of victory narrow in the midterm elections amid a backlash against Trump.
Turnover due to retirements is common in Congress—34 Republicans and 18 Democrats did not seek reelection in 2018. But Democrats claim the latest retirements show their strong hand heading into 2020.
“It’s no secret why: House Rs know they don’t stand a chance at taking back the majority in 2020,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tweeted, noting it is targeting 33 Republican-controlled seats in the next election. —Anne K. Walters