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GOP House Members Bow Out After Short Terms

GOP House Members Bow Out After Short Terms
In 2010, then Va. State Sen. Hurt and constituents (AP)

By Wednesday, 30 December 2015 09:11 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Rep. Robert Hurt's announcement that he will not seek re-election next year marks the 20th Republican lawmaker to leave the House in 2016.

While congressional historians agree that the number is not unusually high, calling it quits after brief tenures is. More than half of the 20 have been in Congress only since 2010.

Frustration with the system, personal term limits, and dislike of the internecine warfare among House Republicans were among the reasons cited for this exodus by two historians and a former member of the House’s “class of 2010” who spoke to me.

Virginia’s Hurt first came to Congress in the midterm elections of 2010 in which Republicans swept control of the House with more than 80 new members — the largest freshman since the 1946 mid-term elections that also gave the GOP a majority in the House.

Hurt’s announcement came on the heels of similar exits by fellow Republicans Richard Hanna and Chris Gibson of New York, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Richard Nugent of Florida, and Dan Benishek of Michigan, all of whom came to Congress five years ago.

Two others, Indiana Reps. Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young, are vying for nomination to succeed their state’s retiring Sen. Dan Coats.

Donald A. Ritchie, retired historian of the U.S. Senate, told me: “All sorts of things go into their decisions. Some are more suited to serve in executive positions, so working in a legislative body just isn’t their cup of tea. And some had set term limits in their minds, and now their time is up.”

Ritchie also pointed out that “many of the lawmakers decided they don’t like the lifestyle of the House. It used to be that members of Congress moved their families here, went home after six months, and played golf with colleagues. Now more leave their families at home and it is said they spend half their time at Reagan National Airport.

“And there is sometimes frustration with so little accomplished in Congress, which is why with a modern re-election rate of 96 percent in the House, there is still usually a 10-to-20 percent turnover. Members either retire or seek another office.”

Historian Donald Critchlow, director of the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University said: “House Members who come to office with high expectations find that they are limited in what they can do. So they decide to do something else.”

But he added another factor: the possibility that Donald Trump could be leading the Republican ticket next fall and fear ‘that Republicans will move forward with a presidential nominee whose unfavorable ratings are high.”

“I think the [retiring congressmen] sense a deep frustration within their constituencies but never calculated Trump would win the nomination,” said Critchlow, whose upcoming book on the Republican Party is entitled “Future Right.”

He aded, “That could lead to a loss for the party akin to when Barry Goldwater was the nominee in 1964 and Republicans lost 27 House seats and one Senate seats.”

Former Rep. Joe Walsh, the first tea party-favored insurgent nominated for the House in 2010, disagreed. He said, “Most of those retiring are in safe seats — unlike me in 2012 [when Walsh was defeated] and their decisions had nothing to do with Trump.”

Now a popular radio talk show host in suburban Chicago, Walsh told me “the key to the retirements of members after two or three terms is twofold. First, our class had the highest number of non-politicians in modern times. They are not creatures of Washington, they hate Washington, in fact, and are not unhappy about leaving.”

Second, Walsh cited the in-fighting among Republicans in the House, noting that “it is unusually raucous and there is virtually a civil war between the younger, Freedom Caucus-style conservatives and the establishment Republicans who are in the leadership.”

Such infighting, he believes, is one reason three fellow Republicans who came to the House with him five years ago have already moved to the Senate: Cory Gardner from Colorado, James Lankford from Oklahoma, and Tim Scott also from Colorado.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


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While congressional historians agree that the number is not unusually high, calling it quits after brief tenures is. More than half of the 20 have been in Congress only since 2010.
Chicago, House, New York, Senate
Wednesday, 30 December 2015 09:11 AM
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