House Democratic Retirements Pile Up as Party Fears Losing Majority in Midterms

House Democratic Retirements Pile Up as Party Fears Losing Majority

DNYUZ.com

WASHINGTON — The quickening pace of Democratic retirements in the House may be the clearest indication yet that the party’s hopes of maintaining its narrow majority are fading amid President Biden’s sagging approval ratings, ongoing legislative struggles and the prospect of redrawn congressional districts that will put some seats out of reach.

In recent days, Representatives John Yarmuth of Kentucky, David E. Price of North Carolina and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania have announced they will not seek re-election. In all, a dozen House Democrats have said they will retire or seek other offices next year, including powerful lawmakers like Mr. Yarmuth, the chairman of the Budget Committee, and members from the most politically competitive districts, such as Representatives Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona.

In interviews, the three representatives who most recently announced their retirement said personal issues were paramount in their decisions — they have served 72 years in the House between them. But they also cited three political factors: redistricting ahead of the 2022 elections, Donald J. Trump’s continued power over Republicans, and the rising Balkanization of the Democratic Party, that they said had made governance increasingly difficult and frustrating.

None of the three expressed concern about any particular bloc in their fractious party, which includes a growing progressive wing, an ardent group of moderates and the pro-business “New Democrats.” Rather, they said they were worried that none of the groups was willing to compromise, leaving two vital pieces of President Biden’s agenda — a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill and an ambitious social policy and climate change measure — in limbo.

“That’s the danger I see for our party, these absolute positions emerging,” Mr. Doyle said. “It used to be you fought those fights in caucus, but when the caucus made a majority opinion, you moved forward.”

Mr. Price, a former political science professor at Duke University, agreed.

“I have a concern that we will have the ability to pull ourselves together, and not fracture among the caucuses the way the Republicans have,” he said.

Democrats face an uphill battle to retain control of Congress. They cannot afford to lose a single seat in the Senate, but they do not face gerrymandered maps there, and vulnerable Republican seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Ohio make Democratic gains possible.

In the House, Democrats can afford to lose only three or four seats. The party holding the White House almost always loses seats in midterm elections, and with President Biden’s approval rating well under 50 percent, the historical headwinds look strong. While 10 Republicans have said they will not seek re-election, the G.O.P. sees the recent retirement announcements of prominent and long-serving Democrats as an acknowledgment of defeat.

“These Democrats spent decades accumulating power and seniority in Congress. They wouldn’t give up that power if they felt Democrats were going to hold the majority,” Mike Berg, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said.

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