Buck to retire next week, narrowing House GOP majority

Buck to retire next week, narrowing House GOP majority

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) will retire from Congress next week, he said Tuesday, a stunning announcement that will narrow the House GOP’s razor-thin majority even further.

Buck — who has become known for breaking from his party on various issues and criticizing Republicans on election denialism — announced last year that he would depart the House at the end of his current term, but expedited that timeline Tuesday.

“It has been an honor to serve the people of Colorado’s 4th District in Congress for the past 9 years. I want to thank them for their support and encouragement throughout the years. Today, I am announcing that I will depart Congress at the end of next week. I look forward to staying involved in our political process, as well as spending more time in Colorado with my family,” he wrote in a statement.

The announcement from Buck, 65, puts a bookend on his nine-plus-year tenure in Congress, which in the past year included a number of controversial votes that put him in direct conflict with other members of the House GOP conference — including his decision to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his opposition to the effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

His impending departure will knock the House GOP’s majority down by one, bringing the breakdown in the House to 218 Republicans and 213 Democrats.

Buck’s exit will not change the margin: Republicans will still only be able to afford to lose two of their members on any party-line votes, assuming all lawmakers are present. But his resignation will, nonetheless, decrease the cushion GOP lawmakers will have on those partisan measures, making it more difficult to pass messaging legislation in the coming months.

“It’s gonna make it tough,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said of Buck’s departure. “I wish he could’ve waited.”

Colorado law says that a special election is required to take place between 85 and 100 days after Buck vacates the seat. Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Tuesday said he would set it to “align with the primary election on June 25.”

Once the special election date is set, each party will be allowed to nominate a candidate to compete in the race to fill out the remainder of Buck’s term. Former President Trump won the district by more than 18 points in 2020, meaning the GOP nominee will be considered the heavy favorite to win the seat.

The special election is separate from the election to serve out a full two-year term in the 4th Congressional District in eastern Colorado. A crowded field of challengers — including Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who represents the 3rd District — is vying for Buck’s seat on June 25.

Buck’s statement sent shock waves throughout the Capitol, including for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who said he was “surprised” by the news and hadn’t been informed prior to the announcement. A Buck spokesperson, however, said the congressman left the Speaker a voicemail 30 minutes before his announcement went public.

His departure squares with the sentiment of other lawmakers who are calling it quits at the end of this Congress, frustrated by the lack of productivity and increased infighting of the last year. More than 40 lawmakers have announced plans to depart the House at the end of this Congress, including several committee chairs.

In an interview with CNN after his announcement, Buck said this past year has been “the worst year” of his nearly decade-long tenure in Congress.

“It is the worst year of the nine years and three months that I’ve been in Congress. And having talked to former members, it’s the worst year in 40, 50 years to be in Congress. But I’m leaving because I think there’s a job to do out there that I want to go do,” he said.

Upon his exit from Congress, Buck said he will shift his attention to the 2024 presidential election, which is on its way to being a rematch between President Biden and former President Trump.

“Everybody I’ve talked to is complaining about the choices they have for president. And it is time that we start talking about how we elect presidents and how we elect senators and congressmen and local leaders,” Buck told reporters Tuesday. “And I feel very strongly about that. I don’t have an organization to join, I just know in my heart I want to get involved in this election cycle and work on that issue.”

The comments sparked speculation that Buck himself may be eyeing a bid for the White House, a notion he quickly shot down.

“I’m not running for president,” he told reporters, chuckling.

This story was updated at 4:31 p.m.

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