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Several Members Of Congress Hint At Retirement This Year

Sep 12, 2017
Originally published on September 12, 2017 3:19 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Over the past week, three Republican congressmen have decided not to run for re-election. Each of their seats gives Democrats a better shot at winning back control of the House next year. NPR's Scott Detrow reports from the Capitol. The question now is whether this is the start of a trend.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Pennsylvania Republican Charlie Dent likes to say he's part of the governing wing of the Republican Party. In recent years, the moderate has gotten a lot lonelier.

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CHARLIE DENT: The basic tasks of governance are exceedingly and excruciatingly difficult.

DETROW: Dent told NPR's Weekend Edition that Congress has gotten more and more gridlocked since the 2013 government shutdown. Eight months into the Trump era, Dent decided he had had enough and that he won't seek re-election. Dent wasn't alone. In recent days, Washington State Republican Dave Reichert and Michigan Republican Dave Trott said they, too, would step down at the end of this term. All these retirements will likely make next year's midterm a lot more competitive.

NATHAN GONZALES: When you have an open seat, you don't have to defeat a well-established, well-financed, sometimes well-liked incumbent.

DETROW: Nathan Gonzales analyzes House races for Inside Elections, which he edits. He says Dent and Reichert's retirements are especially interesting, along with a retirement announced earlier this year, Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents the Miami area.

GONZALES: Because it took three seats that were competitive by the numbers but weren't really competitive when we're talking about Democrats having a chance of taking them over 'cause those incumbents were so strong.

DETROW: The big question now is how many more retirement announcements are coming? Big wave-year elections like 1994 and 2010 often begin with many incumbents deciding just not to run. The seats are often held by moderates like Charlie Dent. He says most voters are like him, either center-right or center-left, but fears as more moderate step away the stalemate in Congress could get worse.

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DENT: There's increased polarization. There are groups out there that profit off of this type of instability and uncertainty and chaos. And they put a lot of pressure on members of Congress.

DETROW: One of those groups may soon be headed by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. Several outlets are reporting that Bannon could front an effort to mount primary challenges against Republicans he doesn't see as loyal enough to Trump. Charlie Rose of CBS News pushed Bannon on the idea during a "60 Minutes" interview.

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CHARLIE ROSE: You are attacking on many fronts people who you need to help you to get things done.

STEVE BANNON: They're not going to help you unless they're put on notice they're going to be held accountable if they do not support the president of the United States. Right now there's no accountability.

DETROW: Combative primaries would just add to the woes Republicans are facing in next year's elections. It's always an uphill battle to keep seats when your party controls the White House, even more so when the president is so unpopular. But one of the Republicans Bannon may target, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, says he's not fazed at all.

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BOB CORKER: I call them like I see them. And I'm not - I'm not going to change who I am to run an election or not run an election. No.

DETROW: It may not be a problem for Corker anyway. He now says he's considering retiring himself and will make a decision over the coming months. Scott Detrow, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.