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House retirement tracker: Senior Democrats exit as the GOP is confident of a takeover

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Updated April 6, 2022 at 12:45 PM ET

A growing number of House lawmakers are deciding to retire or run for a different political office next November. But there are far more Democrats from competitive districts ending their service than Republicans.

With the news of New York Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice's unexpected retirement, Democrats now have the highest number of retirements for the party since 1992, another sign members view the president's low approval ratings and polls on Americans' views the country is off track as sealing their political fate in the November election.

Democrats hold a slim majority in the House, and most political handicappers forecast they are on track to lose control of the chamber in the 2022 midterms.

The number of Democratic departures already exceeded the tally of those who stepped down or ran for another office in the 2010 cycle, when the GOP picked up 63 seats in that wave election.

Historical trends show the party in power in the White House loses seats in Congress in midterm elections, and President Biden's sagging approval ratings have raised alarm bells for his party. Also, the ongoing redistricting process is changing congressional maps. Republicans, who only need to flip five seats to gain control of the House, have an edge in that process.

The list of retiring House Democrats includes several committee chairs, a signal that veteran lawmakers see the writing on the wall and expect to lose their gavels.

Other Democrats see retirements in the Senate as an opportunity to serve in the upper chamber. Conor Lamb is competing in a primary to fill Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey's seat, Tim Ryan is doing the same to replace Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, and Rep. Peter Welch is favored to win the open seat of the longest-serving sitting senator, Pat Leahy of Vermont. Meanwhile, Rep. Val Demings is challenging Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., once considered a possible candidate for House speaker, is running for mayor of Los Angeles.

In the 2020 election a steady stream of Republicans retired ahead of what many believed would be a tough national election cycle with little chance to return to the majority. Even though then-President Donald Trump lost his bid for a second term, the party defied pre-election predictions about House races and winnowed the margin for what they need to pick up in the upcoming midterms.

Like Democrats, several House GOP lawmakers are eyeing contests to serve in other elected offices. Rep. Ted Budd is among the GOP candidates competing for the open seat of retiring North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr. Both Vickie Hartzler and Billy Long are competing for the nomination to run for retiring Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt's seat. Rep. Lee Zeldin is waging a campaign for governor of New York.

Other House Republicans who decided to step down include three who voted for Trump's impeachment — Reps. John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio. Trump had backed a candidate challenging Gonzalez in the primary, before he announced his retirement. Democrats in Illinois also redrew Kinzinger's seat so he would be forced to run against another GOP incumbent.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
Elena Moore is a production assistant for the NPR Politics Podcast. She also fills in as a reporter for the NewsDesk. Moore previously worked as a production assistant for Morning Edition. During the 2020 presidential campaign, she worked for the Washington Desk as an editorial assistant, doing both research and reporting. Before coming to NPR, Moore worked at NBC News. She is a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is originally and proudly from Brooklyn, N.Y.