Congressional Republicans are facing two choices: Join Trump or leave

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are facing the retirements of many of their most reliable allies

Published October 20, 2017 12:17PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Republican congressional leadership already has a lot on its plate dealing with President Donald Trump's random tweets and far-right groups constantly calling for their heads. But things are only getting worse as many of their top allies are leaving Congress.

Several House Republicans are resigning to seek higher office or are retiring from politics entirely. In some measure, the difficult environment for Republicans in Washington has contributed to their decisions.

In September, Rep. Dave Trott of Michigan announced that he would return to the private sector after his second term ends. The perpetual drama inside the White House almost certainly was a factor. In July, Trott explicitly called out the administration in a private meeting between House members for being unhelpful on health care with its constant infighting between various factions.

The constant stream of scandals emanating from Trump's Twitter feed and his erratic public statements has also been exasperating to many Hill Republicans, one former staffer told Politico.

“The job isn't fun anymore. You get beat up in D.C. for everything Trump says or does, only to go home to get beat up for not defending Trump enough by the base. It's brutal," the departed staffer said.

Rep. Pat Tiberi of Ohio, a high-ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee which is heavily involved in the budget-making process, announced Thursday that he will be stepping down by the end of January. Tiberi had sought to become the chair of the committee but lost out and reportedly had been mulling an exit ever since.

In September, Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018. A more moderate Republican, he specifically called out his party for becoming unable to fulfill the basic functions of Congress.

"Accomplishing the most basic fundamental tasks of governance is becoming far too difficult. It shouldn’t be, but that’s reality," Dent told the Washington Post.

In a subsequent interview with MSNBC, the congressman said that while Trump being in the White House complicates things, the reality is that the GOP's problems existed before he came into the picture.

"I've been thinking about this since September of 2013, since the government shutdown," Dent told MSNBC's Chris Matthews. "It's not just the president. We were having challenges prior to Donald Trump. I mean, the simple basic task of governance — just funding the government through a continuing resolution or preventing a default — these shouldn't be very difficult things to do. But they became excruciatingly hard, just these really basic acts. I mean, we have some responsibilities, and we just can't get them done."

Other more mainstream Republicans who are heading for the exits include Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Dave Reichert of Washington State.

On the Senate side, Bob Corker of Tennessee has announced his intentions to leave. A former Trump ally, he seems to have decided to part ways in part over foreign policy. He's also repeatedly criticized the GOP as a whole for abandoning the idea of fiscal restraint in pursuit of tax cuts.

Rep. Tim Murphy, one of Ryan's personal friends, has also left the congress after it was exposed that he had encouraged a woman with whom he'd had an affair to get an abortion.

By Matthew Sheffield

A writer, web developer, and former tv producer, Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media, and technology for Salon. You can email him via or follow him on Twitter.

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Bob Corker Charlie Dent Dave Trott Donald Trump Paul Ryan