Term limit rules targeted by Trump aren't tipping scale on House GOP retirements

Katherine Tully-McManus, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

"What the Democrats have is pretty much just based on how long you've been here and I'm not sure that that necessarily enhances the quality of ideas," the Alabama Republican said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did not directly address Trump's suggestion when asked in a Fox News interview Monday how to stem GOP retirements. But the California Republican's answer -- "It's good to have new blood" -- indicates he is not looking to change conference rules to keep members around longer.

It is possible that Trump's suggestion is in reaction to fears that term limits are contributing to a wave of senior GOP members announcing that this will be their last term. However, Republican retirements due to the term limits were an issue in the 2018 cycle.

Only five Republican committee leaders will be impacted by the term limit after the 2020 election -- two of whom have announced plans to retire -- compared to six for 2018.

Five of those Republicans who were not going to be able to keep their committee leadership spots without a waiver retired in 2018: Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce of California, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, Science Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, who was up against his term limit as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, found another opportunity. He ran for and won the ranking member spot on Foreign Affairs.


Five other Republican chairs who were not at the end of their terms decided to leave the House in the last cycle: Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah resigned in 2017 to pursue a punditry career; his replacement, South Carolina's Trey Gowdy, retired; Budget Chairwoman Diane Black left for a failed campaign for governor of Tennessee; Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen retired amid concerns about holding onto his New Jersey seat; House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper also retired.

Waivers sought and granted for Republicans to serve beyond the three-term limit are rare. The last member to obtain one was former Rep. Paul D. Ryan in 2012, allowing him to serve a fourth term as top Republican on the Budget Committee. After that Ryan went on to serve briefly as Ways and Means chairman in 2015 before he was elected speaker that October.

Ryan's replacement at Ways and Means, Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, is one of the ranking members running up against the term limit heading into 2020. While Brady won't have served a full six years because he took over mid-term for Ryan, he would still need a waiver to serve another.

Just two of the retirements announced in recent weeks are from members facing committee term limits: Texas Rep. Mike Conaway, top Republican on the Agriculture Committee, and Utah Rep Rob Bishop, top Republican on the Natural Resources panel.


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