Key Point: “As the 118th Congress has been dominated by deep dysfunction and bitter divisions inside the GOP, a number of Republicans – particularly from the so-called governing wing – are heading for the exits. …This session of Congress, lawmakers have already experienced a historic 15-ballot race for speaker, the unprecedented ouster of a speaker, a rare expulsion of a member and a number of embarrassing, failed floor votes as Republican leadership has struggled to corral its paper-thin majority.”

CNN: High-profile Republicans head for the exits amid House GOP dysfunction

By: Melanie Zanona, Annie Grayer and Haley Talbot

  • House Republicans were shocked by some of the recent high-profile retirements announced by their colleagues, which have included powerful committee chairs and rising stars inside the GOP.
  • But given the miserable state of affairs inside the House right now, they also weren’t exactly surprised.
  • “They’ve signed up to do serious things. And we’re not doing serious things,” said Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, a conservative who is retiring after bucking his party on several key issues.
  • And Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida, an ally of deposed former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, said this is not how he or many of his colleagues imagined life in the majority, saying, “I thought that some of our members would be smarter.”
  • “A lot of us are frustrated with what’s going on, and that’s just being flat-out honest,” he told CNN. “It’s foolish. And it’s been proven to be foolish. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
  • As the 118th Congress has been dominated by deep dysfunction and bitter divisions inside the GOP, a number of Republicans – particularly from the so-called governing wing – are heading for the exits. So far, 23 GOP lawmakers have decided to not seek reelection or resigned early, including five committee chairs, though some have cited personal reasons or are seeking higher office.
  • Still, the caliber and timing of some of the retirements has raised alarm bells, particularly those who are giving up coveted committee gavels that some work their whole career to achieve.
  • As the 118th Congress has been dominated by deep dysfunction and bitter divisions inside the GOP, a number of Republicans – particularly from the so-called governing wing – are heading for the exits. So far, 23 GOP lawmakers have decided to not seek reelection or resigned early, including five committee chairs, though some have cited personal reasons or are seeking higher office.
  • And on the Energy and Commerce Committee alone – a highly sought-after assignment – there are eight Republicans who are retiring.
  • “Those are big losses for us,” said Rep. Greg Pence of Indiana, who is among the members on the panel hanging up his voting card. “It is alarming. Especially for the institutional knowledge … So, that’s a big deal.”
  • The wave of retirements is rattling some of the Republicans who are choosing to stick around and fueling concern about a potential brain drain as more senior members decide to leave and take their wealth of institutional knowledge with them.
  • “You get this panic and anxiety like, ‘OK, who’s going to step up? Is this a normal thing that happens every few years, or is it actually abnormal?’” said Rep. August Pfluger of Texas. “So, yeah, I’m very worried about it.”
  • “Look, it hasn’t been pleasant, there’s no question about that,” veteran Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said of the past year. 
  • House Republicans wonder: ‘Is it worth it?’
  • This session of Congress, lawmakers have already experienced a historic 15-ballot race for speaker, the unprecedented ouster of a speaker, a rare expulsion of a member and a number of embarrassing, failed floor votes as Republican leadership has struggled to corral its paper-thin majority – all which has all contributed to members’ fatigue.
  • “If you’re chairman of a committee, and you’re trying to do hard legislative work, there’s frustration there. It’s just a number of things piling up,” said House Science Committee Chair Frank Lucas, reflecting on the retirements.
  • At times, the GOP infighting has been so nasty it has almost led to physical blows. And lately, Republicans can’t even seem to pass basic procedural votes, known as a rule.
  • “It is very dysfunctional right now,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. “You have tight margins and divided chambers, and you have a Rules Committee that’s been very dysfunctional.”
  • Added Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas: “We are fractured. And there is a lot of angst. And so yeah, we are I think chipping away at some of the more institutional people here.”
  • Underneath the chaos, there is also growing anxiety about the chances of the House GOP holding on to the majority in November, which was further compounded by Republicans losing a special election in New York – a key battleground – last week.
  • “We have a three-vote majority. And you know, some of our majority-maker seats are tougher with (former President Donald) Trump, and then there’s other places where it works,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, who is leaving Congress to run for governor. “It’s gonna be a nail-biter, and we should all be ready for it.”
  • Meanwhile, there is also some private wariness among Republicans as Trump marches his way toward the GOP presidential nomination and they face pressure to fall in line.
  • “Some of them say, ‘I don’t want to have to endorse him, I don’t want to have to serve under him,’” one GOP lawmaker told CNN when asked about the retirements. “That’s something else that is weighing in a lot of the private conversations I’m having.”

“There’s absolutely concern over a loss of knowledge, a loss of seniority, in some cases, a loss of civility,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee. “We don’t know whom we’re going to get and what the new Congress is going to look like.”

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