Retirements Highlight GOP Congressional Problems
Retirements Highlight GOP Congressional Problems
A recent wave of Republicans announcing their retirements from Congress is definitely not the best news if the GOP hopes to retake the House in the 2020 election.
The latest, Will Hurd of Texas, is definitely raising some eyebrows.
I have made the decision to not seek reelection for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas in order to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security. https://t.co/GeZ4Hh264f
— Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) August 2, 2019
Hurd is currently the only black GOP member of Congress, and represents a swing district. Now, he says he plans to stay in politics (there is some speculation that he tries for U.S. Senate or maybe a future Texas gubernatorial race), but he’s one of eight members so far that are not running for reelection.
Now, some turnover like this is normal, and apparently retirements from Texas are announced early due to the state primary being held next March, which means everyone needs to declare by December if they are running or not. Still, the speculation is running rampant that Republicans are leaving because they are fed up with Trump. Well, that might be true in some cases, but there is definitely another element to this: Congress is pretty broken. Even Vox agreed over a year ago that the job of a Representative pretty much sucks in the current climate.
In an era of national elections, candidates have little control over their own electoral fates. In an era of big outside money, they can’t even control their own campaigns. And because party leadership centrally plans so much of what happens in Congress, members have no ability to exercise any independent policymaking capacity. Divisive polarization means constant gridlock and a Congress whose main legislative activity is voting on whether to keep the government funded every few weeks. Hardly rewarding work.
Individual members of Congress have less autonomy and control than at any other time in recent memory. No wonder they’re retiring in droves.
A recent tweet thread by Matt Glassman of the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University pointed out this same sense of futility that seems to be be haunting the current run of retirements.
The examples are endless, but can be quickly summed up. In the past, most members participated substantively in the policy process via the committee system. But the process is now tightly controlled by leadership, reducing opportunities for members to influence legislation.”
Hard work in a policy area is often unrewarded, reducing the incentive to dig into an issue, nevermind develop real expertise.”
Conversely, members face increased uncertainty about their own re-elections, as national partisan winds control more and more of their fate regardless of how well they represent their districts, and well-funded primary challengers threaten even general-election safe districts.”
The long and the short of the thread (and it really is worth a read) is that Congress has largely given up on actually making law, which is a bad thing, given that that’s their constitutional duty under the separation of powers in the Constitution. And those who like to hang out, collect a paycheck, make noise, and not actually put in the hard work of legislating are the kind of Representatives we’re going to continue to see under the current climate.
But my point is more that there's no automatic trigger here that would lead anyone to fix this problem, because as the problem grows, the membership itself is transformed into a body that doesn't really mind the problem. 13/
— Matt Glassman (@MattGlassman312) August 2, 2019
Or, be prepared for The Squad in perpetuity. Those members have developed their own notoriety and have continually failed at every single piece of legislation that they’ve currently proposed – and they’re in the majority! But do they really care? Nope – because they don’t mind the way things are currently. They have a sense of power, the respect of the media, and they don’t really have to do anything but smile on command for the cameras and donors.
But there is one congressional seat that the Republicans were planning on filling that is now not going to be vacant – that of Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas, who President Trump had nominated for Director of National Intelligence.
….John has therefore decided to stay in Congress where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas, and our Country. I will be announcing my nomination for DNI shortly.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2019
Ratcliffe’s nomination had already been scrutinized on both sides, and Democrats were vowing to make his life miserable in the confirmation process. So Ratcliffe will stay in the House, the Trump administration is shopping for a new DNI, and nothing continues to get done in the House except massive spending while raising the debt ceiling.
I’m starting to understand why retirements are spiking among GOP members right now.