A wave of House GOP retirements that accelerated during the August recess is creating fresh headaches for party leaders and suggesting Republicans see little chance of winning back the chamber in 2020.
So far, 15 Republicans have announced this cycle that they are retiring, resigning or running for other offices, including eight since the summer recess began in late July.
A handful of those departing, such as Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), would have faced tough reelections in competitive districts.
But the vast majority occupy safe, conservative seats — a sign that these lawmakers may be fatigued from the chaotic Trump era and have no desire to wander in the political wilderness for another two years or longer after losing the House in 2018.
“The most likely outcome is a status quo election for the House. And that certainly influences people’s decision [to retire], whether they think they can regain the majority or not,” said former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), one of two dozen Republicans swept out of office during the anti-Trump wave election that handed Democrats control of the House last fall.
“For sure, some of those members who retired, [staying in the minority] was a factor in their thinking,” he added.
Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said the notion of remaining in the minority is one factor driving the wave of GOP retirements, but it’s hardly the only one.
The GOP base has shifted, he said, creating new power centers that are forcing once-comfortable lawmakers “to have to hustle a little bit.”
He also pointed to the simple question of finances, as members of Congress have not received a pay increase in more than a decade.
But perhaps the most significant factor, Davis said, are the “changing electoral patterns” brought on by the rise of the populist movement that propelled Trump to the White House — an environment that is hardly unique to the United States.
“The overall atmosphere in Washington is not very pleasant,” said Davis, who previously led the House GOP’s campaign arm. “This is a global phenomenon caused by the rapidity of change, the instant communications, the rising expectations of those people who are unhappy with the change, who don’t see [government] helping fast enough and who feel their status threatened.”
Whatever the cause, retirements are piling up quickly.