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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spate of retirements continues on Capitol Hill

U.S. Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) questions witness during a a House House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the U.S. southern border, in the Rayburn House Office Building on Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to investigate security concerns at the U.S. southern border. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/TNS)  (Kevin Dietsch)
By Niels Lesniewski CQ-Roll Call

WASHINGTON — More than a half-dozen members of Congress have announced plans to retire, resign or run for other office just since Election Day one week ago.

On Monday, Texas GOP Rep. Pat Fallon said he would run for a seat in the state Senate rather than another House term, while fellow Texas Republican Rep. Michael C. Burgess said he had decided “with a satisfied and grateful heart” not to seek a 12th term.

The tone was different when Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins announced Sunday that he will not finish his 10th term representing a heavily Democratic district in western New York. He lamented the state of affairs in Congress.

“It’s a very different place today. We’re spending more time doing less, and the American people aren’t being served,” Higgins said at a news conference in Buffalo, saying that even the powerful Ways and Means Committee on which he’s served “has become very politicized.”

Higgins, 64, plans to resign the first week of February 2024 to return to Buffalo, reportedly to be the next president of Shea’s Performing Arts Center in the city. Higgins is the third lawmaker to announce an early departure this Congress, with Rep. Gabe Amo being sworn in as the newest House member Monday evening to fill the Rhode Island seat vacated by fellow Democrat David Cicilline’s resignation. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, resigned in September, with a special election to fill the unexpired term scheduled for Nov. 21.

As with the Rhode Island and Utah seats, the New York seat is not expected to be a pickup opportunity for the opposing party.

The announcements by Fallon and Burgess came after a flurry of congressional departures around Veterans Day weekend, just after the off-year election.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., announced Monday that she wouldn’t seek another term in Congress in the 2024 election cycle while mounting a bid for governor of the commonwealth in 2025. Democrats won control of both chambers of the Virginia legislature last week, and under Virginia’s unusual constitutional restriction, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin cannot seek reelection.

“Last week, Virginia’s elections showed that Virginians want to move forward, but we need a new Governor to be driving that progress,” Spanberger wrote in a fundraising message Monday. “I am running for Governor, because I know what I will bring to the job — a deep and abiding love for our Commonwealth, a relentless work ethic, and a focus on bringing people together to solve the real challenges facing Virginians.”

Spanberger could have run for reelection next year while vying to become governor in 2025, but instead there will be an open-seat contest in her Northern Virginia district. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales has the race in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District rated Tilt Democratic.

Ahead of Friday’s federal holiday, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio and Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer of Washington also announced they would not be seeking reelection. The most recent wave of announcements follows others. Spanberger is the 16th member of the House now seeking another office, though some may ultimately seek reeelection if that doesn’t work out. With the most recent additions, there are now 11 House members and five senators planning to retire from office.

Since 1946, an average of 34 House members retire or otherwise don’t seek reelection each cycle, according to data compiled by the Brookings Institution. Even with the latest additions, this year’s total is running below average, but there were 49 departures in the 2022 cycle, typical of years after the decennial census when the House is reapportioned and redistricted.

Also, filing deadlines for candidates to run in 2024 are just starting to hit, with Texas’ coming up on Dec. 11. But deadlines also run as late as July, so more members could join the exodus for a variety of reasons.

The 65-year-old Wenstrup said that with two young children, it was time to return home to the Cincinnati area.

“Sadly, all too often the frantic pace of Washington has kept me away from our home,” he said in a video, adding that he planned to “run through the tape” in the balance of his term, including in his role as chair of the select committee charged with investigating COVID-19 pandemic origins.

Kilmer, who chaired the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress in the last Democratic majority, touted that panel’s work on updating a variety of antiquated House practices.

“We passed over 200 proposed reforms to make Congress work better, and I’m proud that more than a quarter have already been fully implemented. I have so enjoyed working with the cohort of nonprofits, think tanks, and academics who have dedicated time and energy to making government work better,” Kilmer said in a statement. “To state the obvious, there’s a lot more work to do there. We are better than our current politics. I can’t think of a better way to close out my term than working with the new Fix Congress Caucus to continue the work of making Congress more functional.”