Tip Sheets

Toxic atmosphere, party infighting: Members of Congress rush for exits

Media Contact

Damien Sharp

Rep. Kevin McCarthy will retire from Congress at the end of the year – the latest in a record number of lawmakers announcing they will not seek re-election. 

Dan Lamb, politics expert, former congressional aide for 15 years, and senior lecturer at the Cornell Brooks School of Public Policy, says frustration and a toxic atmosphere are key contributing factors to the mass exodus from Congress. 

Dan Lamb

Senior Lecturer

“Retirements from Congress are above what we have seen in the last few cycles and the reasons for leaving, given by departing members, are different.    

“Some longtime members of both parties are leaving out of frustration. They were elected in a different era and came to Congress to get things done. They did not sign up for a job where the most basic functions, like electing a speaker or funding the federal government, are so difficult to achieve. They are also frustrated because the bills they care about never make it to the floor for a vote.  

“Other departing members blame the toxic atmosphere and party infighting, particularly within the House majority. These departures appear driven in part by a Republican House leadership that increasingly caters to a single person – a four-time indicted ex-president – rather than pressing national needs.  

“While public opinion of Congress is near record lows and some members are rushing for the exits, there is no shortage of new candidates interested in filling the vacancies.” 

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