More GOP Resignations Loom As Speaker Johnson Pleads With Members to Stop Primarying Other GOPers

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When Colorado Republican Representative Ken Buck abruptly resigned from the House last week, he created more than a little turmoil. The GOP’s nine-seat majority (222 R – 213 D) was always tenuous. Since then, the margin of control has been reduced by the expulsion of George Santos (NY-03) and the resignation of former Speaker Kevin McCarty (CA-20). When Ohio Republican Bill Johnson (OH-06) submitted his resignation effective January 21, the GOP majority dropped to 219-213. Ken Buck’s resignation makes matters worse. Losing two votes means Republicans cede control to a Democrat Caucus moving in lockstep.

BACKGROUND: BREAKING: Colorado Representative Ken Buck Resigns From Congress

On his way out, Buck dropped an ominous statement. When asked if he was catching crap from colleagues over his no-notice resignation — neither Speaker Johnson nor Majority Leader Scalise was told in advance —he said, “I think it’s the next three people that leave that they’re going to be worried about.”

There is no more information about who those three might be, but a safe bet is that they would come from the members who have announced their retirement.

  • Debbie Lesko (AZ-08)
  • Victoria Spartz (IN-05)
  • Brad Wenstrup (OH-02)
  • Kay Granger (TX-12)
  • Michael Burgess (TX-26)

If those resignations occur before the June special elections, which will fill most of the absences, it will result in a House with an even split and perhaps a short-term replacement of Johnson by Hakeem Jeffries. 

While this Congress will probably not surpass the record of 16 who resigned in the 115th Congress (2017-2018), something is definitely wrong.

Buck warned that more resignations could be coming. Those who are staying behind understand what’s driving this rush to the early exits, blaming internal GOP chaos for making the House a legislative ghost town most weeks.

Tensions reached such a boiling point among House Republicans that only about 40 percent of the 218 members of their conference attended their issues retreat in West Virginia, leading to the cancellation of their Friday panel discussions so lawmakers could leave Thursday night instead.

When you can only get 40 percent of your caucus to attend something like a planning retreat, something unhealthy is going on. As if to underscore the problem, Speaker Mike Johnson was reduced to begging members to stop sponsoring primary challenges to other Republicans. 

“I’ve asked them all to cool it,” Johnson told CNN at the House GOP retreat in West Virginia last week. “I am vehemently opposed to member-on-member action in primaries because it’s not productive. And it causes division for obvious reasons, and we should not be engaging in that.”

“So I’m telling everyone who’s doing that to knock it off,” Johnson added. “And both sides, they’ll say, ‘Well, we didn’t start it, they started it.’”

But no one is listening.

Yet across the country on that same day: Gaetz was rallying in Texas for Brandon Herrera in his bid to defeat [Tony] Gonzales ahead of the May 28 runoff.

Rep. William Timmons of South Carolina is one of the embattled incumbents trying to hang on, as several members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus are trying to boot him from the seat in favor of his right-wing opponent.

But it’s not just hardliners who are making moves against their colleagues. Half a dozen House Republicans who are normally allied with leadership, including House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers, are slated to attend an upcoming fundraiser for the Republican candidate challenging Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good, according to multiple sources.

Good was one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy and has created his share of enemies inside the conference with his brash style – including fellow Virginia Republican Rep. Jen Kiggans, who is among those boosting Good’s primary opponent, Navy SEAL John McGuire.

[Mike] Bost, the southern Illinois Republican, won Trump’s endorsement after Johnson and Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina, the House GOP’s campaign chief, went to Mar-a-Lago to seek the former president’s backing. Still, Gaetz campaigned for Bost’s opponent, Darren Bailey, ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

This is the behavior you see on any failing team with crap leadership. Players stop acting as a team and become focused on their personal careers and grievances. While Matt Gaetz and some other members of the Freedom Caucus have obviously abandoned moving conservatism forward in favor of social media clout and headlines, they do it because House leadership is unable or unwilling to discipline them. A small House majority riven by internecine political warfare is useless.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of primary challenges, but when those challengers are recruited and supported by the target’s colleagues, they destroy any sense of team spirit. When those challenges fail, as most will, you are left with lasting enmity instead of collegiality.

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