Congressional short-timers


Congressional short-timers

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Five senators will leave office when the 117th Congress ends on Jan. 3, 2023. Across the Capitol, 71 House members will depart the 435-member chamber that day, making for considerable turnover.

The January 2023 class of departing lawmakers runs the gamut from bold-faced names whose Capitol Hill tenures are likely to be remembered decades from now to one-hit political wonders set to be forgotten.


The memorable batch includes Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who is retiring after 48 years as a senator. Leahy has chaired several major committees and helped get dozens of laws enacted over the decades. Another notable Senate retiree is Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who is just behind Leahy in congressional seniority. First elected to the House in 1978 as a Democrat, Shelby ascended to the Senate in 1986 and switched to the GOP after the 1994 Republican Revolution swept the party into power in both chambers of Congress. Shelby went on to lead the Senate Appropriations Committee, along with several other panels.

Then there’s Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), a political novelty act whose once-promising congressional career soon devolved into a political punchline. After winning his western North Carolina House seat in 2020 at 25, the youngest age allowed under the Constitution, Cawthorn lost in the 2022 Republican primary to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, now a congressman-elect. Cawthorn’s tenure was marked by a string of controversies, including allegations of insider trading, improper payments to congressional staffers and campaign aides, and a leaked nude video.

Thirty-one House members are retiring from Congress. Some have built long-term careers in the House, including Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who was first elected in 1986 and a former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Upton also is the first member of Congress to vote to impeach two presidents. Upton backed the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1998 for lying under oath in court proceedings related to the Monica Lewinsky affair. Upton also voted to impeach Republican President Donald Trump in January 2021 after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Others decided to call it quits much sooner, such as Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), a member of the House Jan. 6 committee, which has investigated Trump’s role in the Capitol riot and other efforts to block President Joe Biden’s ascension to office. Murphy has said she’s leaving politics after six years in Congress to spend time with her young children.

Only nine House members are leaving because they lost their general election bids on Nov. 8. Meanwhile, every senator who sought reelection won. It’s the first time that has happened in the modern history of Senate elections, going back to the 1914 cycle. That was when all senators started to be elected by voters, not state legislatures, after the ratification of the 17th Amendment, which was added to the Constitution on April 8, 1913.

More sitting House members were defeated in primaries than in the Nov. 8 general election. Five losses were due to redistricting-induced member-on-member primaries, where two sitting House members of the same party ran against each other rather than taking their chances in another district.


House members who sought political promotions didn’t have much luck. Of the 17 House members who sought other offices, only five won. The most recent resignation was former Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), who left Congress just before being sworn in as the mayor of Los Angeles on Dec. 12. Bass had already given up her House seat for what turned out to be a successful 2022 mayoral run. So, she appears twice on the list below.

There’s one more category of departed lawmakers worth noting, morbidly so. The soon-to-expire 117th Congress was the deadliest in years. Seven House members died, including Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R-LA), who died Dec. 29, 2020, from complications caused by COVID-19, just five days before taking office in the northeastern and central Louisiana 5th Congressional District. Nearly two years later, Rep. Donald McEachin died on Nov. 28 following a battle with colorectal cancer.

That made for the most congressional deaths since the 110th Congress, from 2007 to 2009. In those two years, seven House members died, along with one sitting senator.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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