Resignations in Congress At Near Record as Fed-Up Lawmakers Bolt For the Exits

News & Politics

Every two years, between 45-60 members of Congress leave the House. Some leave to run for higher office. Most retired to move on to other things like lobbying or foundation work. 

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But, this term, there has been triple the number of members who resign before their term is up. And the reason isn’t surprising.

“This place just keeps going downhill, and I don’t need to spend my time here,” Rep. Ken Buck said to journalists. Buck was originally going to serve until the end of his term. But the infighting, the pettiness, and the inability to get anything done has convinced him to break that pledge and exit next week.

Six members have resigned or, in the case of George Santos, been expelled before their term was up. The reasons vary but the common denominator is exhaustion with the way Congress works or doesn’t work.

Washington Post:

Buck warned that more resignations could be coming. Those who are staying behind understand what’s driving this rush to the early exits, blaming internal GOP chaos for making the House a legislative ghost town most weeks.

Tensions reached such a boiling point among House Republicans that only about 40 percent of the 218 members of their conference attended their issues retreat in West Virginia, leading to the cancellation of their Friday panel discussions so lawmakers could leave Thursday night instead.

“The House didn’t reach its potential in a lot of areas. We had infighting. We had a speaker debate. We had a debt debate. There’s a lot of frustration,” said Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who is on his second tour of Congress after leaving in early 2017 to serve as Trump’s Interior Secretary.

The Senate, being a much more collegial place, doesn’t appear to have the burnout problem that the House does. Senator Ben Sasse left Congress in the middle of his term to serve as President of the University of Florida, but he’s the only Senator who left in the middle of his term over the last ten years.

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It started last May when Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) resigned after more than 12 years in office to lead the Rhode Island Foundation, and soon after Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) resigned to start a lobbying firm. Earlier this year Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) quit to go home for a Buffalo arts job, while Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) left to take over as president of Youngstown State University.

These next jobs are all interesting, most paying much better than a rank-and-file lawmaker’s $174,000 salary, with more flexible hours.

But the usual pattern for burned-out lawmakers would be to wait out these congressional jobs until they finished the two-year term that they promised to their constituents when they voted for them.

There are another 45 members of the House who will not seek re-election with the possibility of a few more before summer. Since most of the resignations are from safe districts for both parties, the number of seats that change hands because of retirements is never that dramatic.

It’s still up in the air whether either party will gain an advantage from these retirements.

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