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Why members of Congress decide they 'gotta get out of this place'

Congress is not a very fun place to be anymore, and that is why lawmakers are skipping out early, retiring even before their term completes next January.

It is unclear if Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., and several dozen other lawmakers are channeling The Animals’ frontman Eric Burdon. 

However, they certainly share the same sentiments. Congress is not a very fun place to be anymore, and that is why lawmakers are skipping out early, retiring even before their term completes next January. 

A reporter asked Buck about what "frustrated" him on Capitol Hill and what made working there so "difficult."


"Do you really need me to explain what’s so difficult about this?" replied Buck. 

The 118th Congress has been one of the rockiest and whackiest in recent memory and certainly one of the least productive. The valleys include the five days the House consumed to elect a speaker to multiple flirtations with the debt ceiling and government shutdown. Then there was the ouster of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. The House burned through three more speaker candidates before tapping House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. Despite toiling in the minority, Democrats now provide the majority of votes on many major issues which pass the House, especially on government funding. However, a broad, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers recently voted to curb access to TikTok in the U.S. 

The TikTok vote scored major headlines, but so did the House vote to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. 

And, as is custom, the House GOP’s first attempt at impeachment failed before they took a mulligan.

Three Republicans helped tank the initial Mayorkas impeachment vote: Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc. — who is retiring — and Buck — who is leaving before his term ends. 

The Colorado Republican cited impeachment as among his decisions to skip out of the 118th Congress early.

"We’ve taken impeachment, and we made it a social media issue as opposed to a Constitutional one," said Buck. "This place just keeps going down. I don’t really want to spend my time here."

Former Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, resigned early a few weeks ago to become the president of Youngstown State University. Former Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., left early to run an arts organization in Buffalo, New York. Fox is told there could be other lawmakers who ditch Capitol Hill before their term is up.

It is about the math.

Buck told Fox he will formally resign at the end of the day on March 22. This squeezes the meager GOP majority in the House. There will be 431 members. 218 Republicans to 213 Democrats. At this moment, the breakdown is 219 Republicans to 213 Democrats. That is a margin of six. However, Republicans can only lose two votes. That is because a tie vote fails automatically in the House. When Buck hits the exit ramp, the margin shrivels to five. However, the GOP can still only drop two votes on any given roll call without help from the other side. 

Here is where things get really interesting.

There is a special election for the seat formerly occupied by Higgins on April 30. Strange things sometimes unfold in special elections because it’s impossible to determine the turnout. However, the Higgins seat is a Democratic district. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) garnered 57% of the vote in that district. Republican Gary Dickson runs against Democrat Tim Kennedy. If Kennedy prevails, Democrats hold the seat, and the numbers change again in the House. 

There will be 432 members. 218 Republicans to 214 Democrats. The margin is four seats, but the GOP cannot lose two votes and still pass a bill without help from across the aisle. Again, tie votes come into play. Republicans will be down to only a solitary vote to spare.

This is where things get very dangerous for the GOP. They cannot lose anyone who is out sick or missed a flight. They cannot have someone disappear for a week or two for a family matter. And unfortunately, there are untimely deaths among members from time to time. 

That said, things may improve for Republicans. There is a likely runoff on May 21 to fill McCarthy's seat, who resigned in December. The GOP could build its ranks slowly if they win that special election. In fact, Republicans could even have reinforcements if one of the candidates scores more than 50.1% tonight — averting the runoff.

However, there is a broader problem. Could other members just quit like Buck? What if they’re as fed up as he is? What if they’re retiring and have big paycheck offers outside Congress and want to leave now?

Multiple members confided to Fox they anticipate more exits over the summer, and certainly after the election. The Senate has flipped control in the middle of a Congress before — most recently in 2001. That was when late Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., dropped his affiliation with Republicans and decided to caucus with the Democrats in a 50-50 Senate. You should not rule out anything, considering how strange and unpredictable this Congress has been. 


Buck expressed his disgust just moments after he announced his departure. 

The House Judiciary Committee invited special counsel Robert Hur to testify last week about his investigation into how President Biden handled classified documents after he left the vice presidency. Hur caught flak from both sides. Democrats took umbrage that Hur appeared to go out of his way to write about the president’s age and perceived cognitive issues. Republicans questioned Hur about why he did not prosecute Mr. Biden, despite having what they believed saw as good reason to do so.

Buck spoke directly to Hur when it was his turn to speak from the dais.

"From what I've observed in this hearing, is that one side thinks you're trying to get President Trump elected and the other side thinks you're trying to get President Biden elected. I served as a prosecutor for 25 years. I know that you're going to take grief from both sides," said Buck. "But when both sides attack you, my admonition is ‘Welcome to Congress.’"

It is unclear what the next couple of months have in store for the House membership. Congress is not very pleasant right now. The sides can barely get together to avoid multiple government shutdowns or to lift the debt ceiling. There is a lack of trust between members. Republicans struggled for months to even pass their own bills. That is to say nothing of the GOP relying on Democrats to provide most of the votes on major bills like government funding.


"We gotta get out of this place," sang Eric Burdon with the Animals. "There’s a better life for me and you."

And that is exactly the thinking of lawmakers who are storming the exits.

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