Three senior House Democrats announced plans to retire this month, a less-than-encouraging sign for the party’s hopes to retain control of the lower chamber next year.
The latest announcements came Monday from Reps. David Price (N.C.), a senior member on the House Appropriations Committee, and Mike Doyle (Pa.), a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee chairman. House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) announced his plans to retire last week.
Price, 81, is stepping down after more than 30 years of representing North Carolina in Congress. Doyle, 68, is also a longtime House member who was first elected in Pennsylvania in 1994.
The decision by the veteran members of Congress who hail from battleground states to call it quits doesn’t bode well for Democrats as they seek to retain control of the House in 2022. Republicans were already facing a favorable political environment as lawmakers gear up for the critical campaign season. A wave of Democratic retirements could make a tough midterm for the party even worse.
An early wave of retirements usually spells trouble for the party in power. In 2018, dozens of House Republicans opted to retire instead of running for another term. Democrats ended up winning many of the seats, contributing to their return to power.
So far, at least, the number of Democrats announcing their retirement hasn’t matched the large Republican wave of members who called it quits in 2018. That could still change. But either way, any retirements could make the job of retaining control of the House ― especially during the first two years of a president’s term ― harder for the party in power.
“Smart Democrats are fleeing Congress as fast as humanly possible because they know Democrats’ majority is coming to an end,” Mike Berg, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is focused on retaking the House, said in a statement.
Democrats are hoping that passing the Build Back Better Act, their ambitious package of safety net programs and measures to fight climate change, will convince voters to keep them in power in 2022. The proposal includes a slew of new and bolstered government programs, including funding for free community college and pre-kindergarten; monthly payments to most households with children, which started this summer; expanded health care coverage for seniors and the poor; and new subsidies for green energy.
It’s a risky bet, and one that hinges on voters penalizing Republicans for opposing popular government measures like the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief law that Congress passed earlier this year.
Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Democrats are “confident in our ability to win the House yet again because while voters see Democratic members and candidates focused on rebooting the economy and getting folks back on the job, Republicans are campaigning on junk science that is endangering people’s lives and false election claims that threaten our democracy.”
But Republicans also have challenges as they seek to capitalize on Democratic divisions over their Build Back Better agenda: namely, former President Donald Trump and his lies about election fraud.
Trump last week warned that Republican voters will stay home in the 2022 midterms unless the GOP fully embraces the lie that Trump beat President Joe Biden in 2020. His efforts to question the integrity of elections nationwide could depress voter turnout among Republicans and cost them at the ballot box, as was the case in Georgia earlier this year.