House Republican Exodus: Top Lawmakers Brace For Retirement Amid Congressional Chaos

By Lisa Pelgin | Monday, 26 February 2024 10:30 AM
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The House Republican Conference is preparing for the departure of several key lawmakers at the end of this year, with both emerging leaders and seasoned legislators planning to retire after months of turmoil.

Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., Chairman of the Financial Services, announced his departure in December after serving 10 terms in Congress. This month, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Chairwoman of the Energy and Commerce Committee; Mark Green, R-Tenn., Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee; and Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., Chairman of the China select committee, all announced their impending retirement from Congress.

Doug Heye, a seasoned GOP strategist, told Fox News Digital, "It just reflects how Congress has just become a bad workplace. And when you talk to members, they're not happy." Heye expressed no surprise at McHenry’s exit, attributing it to the end of House Republicans’ conference rule that imposes three-term limits on top committee positions. However, he described the departures of Rodgers and Gallagher as "shockers."

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"[Rodgers] had time to go still as chair. People typically don't leave their committee if they have time to go. Gallagher was certainly seen as a real up-and-comer," Heye added.

John Feehery, a partner at EFB Advocacy and former employee of ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, suggested that some of the departing top Republicans might not be enthusiastic about the possibility of working under another potential Trump administration. However, their successors in the House are likely to have a different perspective.

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"I think the political implications now are that there were a lot of members who probably weren't all in on MAGA, and their successors are going to be, I think, much more solidly pro-Trump," Feehery said. "I also think there’s just a general frustration with the inability for Republicans to really kind of score victories."

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The House Republicans have had difficulty presenting a united front throughout much of the 118th Congress, primarily due to a slim majority. Public displays of division, including the removal of their own speaker from power in October, have cast doubt on the GOP’s ability to retain the chamber.

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Chairman Green dismissed these concerns, telling Fox News Digital that he would continue to fight for GOP victories even outside of Congress.

"I won’t speak for others, but I’m ready to continue the fight — in a new capacity. If Republicans are in the minority next year, I’m confident they will continue to do their best to protect the American people from the swamp, but I know from experience that this is difficult to do in the minority. That’s why this upcoming election is so extremely important," Green stated.

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Green, who is leaving Congress after one term as the leader of the Homeland Security Committee, described his tenure as "challenging, rewarding and meaningful." He expressed hope that Republicans would maintain the majority next year, adding, "Americans aren’t asleep at the wheel. Each day, they feel the strain of inflation and the consequences of big government."

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However, if they do retain the majority, Heye warned that the GOP committee leadership could look significantly different.

"I think it’ll be some of both [establishment Republicans and hardliners]," Heye said. "But the majority of Republican members haven't served in times before Trump, meaning they're new to this job. They're still trying to figure out what the job is, and certainly … running the House, they're new to that. So, that's a challenge. Then you have some who don't really want to run committees in the way that committees need to be run. And that presents problems.

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"We’re losing good people who know how to do the job."

Feehery suggested that those committee positions are more likely to be filled by those closest to House GOP leadership at the time.

"My sense is it's more of the team players who are going to have a better shot of rising up to be chairmen," he said.

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