Buck announces he will leave Congress early, further driving down GOP majority

Republican Rep. Ken Buck announced Tuesday that he will leave the House on March 22, moving up his existing retirement plans.

Buck’s decision will leave Republicans with a paltry 218 seats in the chamber, compared to Democrats’ 213, furthering Speaker Mike Johnson’s constant struggle to herd the House GOP and pass any legislation through regular order. Republicans can still only afford to lose two votes on any bill with united Democratic opposition, assuming full attendance.

Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters Tuesday that he didn’t know about Buck’s departure plans shortly after the announcement, noting he is looking forward to talking to the Colorado Republican. A Buck spokesperson told POLITICO that Buck called Johnson about 30 minutes before the announcement went live and left a voicemail. The move caught many of Buck’s GOP colleagues by surprise.

“This place has just devolved into this bickering and nonsense,” the conservative Colorado Republican said in an interview on CNN shortly after his announcement. “It’s the worst year in 40, 50 years to be in Congress.”

There’s already a competitive primary to replace Buck in the red seat. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) jumped into that race for Colorado’s 4th congressional district and moved across the state after she narrowly won reelection by just several hundred votes in her current district in 2022. Asked if Buck’s announcement would shift her plans to run in his district, Boebert replied: “I’m running in the 4th.”

And there’s already a sense that Boebert will have a tougher time winning in November now that there’s a special election.

“It makes it harder for her. Either Jerry Sonneberg or Deb Flora will get the vacancy. (Jerry being the frontrunner), and voters will wonder why Lauren isn’t on that ballot,” said a Republican with connections in the state party, granted anonymity to speak candidly.

In Colorado, the governor is required to set a special election 85 to 100 days after the vacancy occurs. Candidates are nominated by the state party. The Buck spokesperson predicted it would occur in June, likely the same day as the primary election for the full term: June 25.

Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.

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