This is not good at all for America.
Public disillusionment with Congress is on the rise, and some House lawmakers are now acknowledging the sentiment. With legislative activity nearly at a standstill and partisanship reaching alarming levels, members from both political parties are opting not to seek reelection, choosing instead to pursue higher offices or exit politics altogether.
According to The Hill, this trend has surged in recent months, reflecting the challenges of navigating a polarized and chaotic era in Congress. Representative Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) highlighted the dysfunction in Washington, stating, “[I]t is hard to get anything done.” Others, like Representative Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), with 18 years of House experience, lamented the focus on short-term issues with little long-term impact.
The exodus includes 30 House members, spanning both Democrats and Republicans, announcing they will not seek reelection. Reasons vary, with 16 retiring from public office, 11 running for Senate seats, and three eyeing other government positions. The departures cut across congressional seniority, post-House plans, and motivations for leaving.
Recent additions to the list include Representative Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), who accepted a role as president of Youngstown State University, and Representative Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), departing after a 30-year congressional tenure. The departures also feature lawmakers like Representative Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) vying for a Senate seat, and Representative Ken Buck (R-Colo.) criticizing the GOP’s stance on election denialism.
Moreover, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is running for Houston mayor, while Representative Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) is pursuing the Democratic nomination for president. Both can potentially remain in Congress if unsuccessful in their other endeavors.
While the number of House members not seeking reelection in 2024 is not unusually high, the bipartisan nature of these departures is notable. Matthew Green, a politics professor, noted that the reasons cited for retiring reveal deeper dissatisfaction with Congress.
During a tumultuous 10-week period on Capitol Hill, 15 lawmakers announced their retirement plans in October and November. This period included a near-government shutdown, the successful ouster of a sitting Speaker, and a three-week saga to elect a new top lawmaker, causing a halt in legislative business.
The overall atmosphere in Washington, characterized by bitter intra-party and inter-party battles, shutdown threats, near-economic default, and minimal legislative achievements, contributed to lawmakers’ frustration. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) questioned the value of two more years in Congress in such a climate.
The declining productivity, evidenced by only 21 pieces of legislation signed into law this year, has led to record-low approval ratings for Congress, currently standing at just 13 percent. Some lawmakers, however, are leaving for personal reasons, such as health issues.
As negative perceptions of Congress grow, more retirements are anticipated in the coming weeks, especially after the holiday season. The toxic nature of serving in Congress, as described by some, may lead to further departures, contributing to an already challenging political landscape.