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Latest House GOP retirement raises concerns

How much room is left in the Grand Old Party for those who don’t tow the MAGA line 100%?

The day after the birthday of the nation’s first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, we were intrigued when Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher surprisingly announced on February 10 that he would retire from the House of Representatives when his term ends.

Gallagher is 39 years old and entering his fourth term in the House of Representatives. He was seen as a rising star in the Republican Party and in Wisconsin, where he represented Green Bay and surrounding areas. His voting record is very conservative.

But he was one of three House Republicans who voted against impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. In a huge embarrassment for House Speaker Mike Johnson, last week’s three no votes were enough to prevent the impeachment bid from succeeding.

Gallagher said in a statement about the vote that Mayorkas was “stunningly incompetent” in the role. But he said supporters of Mayorkas’ impeachment have failed to show that he has done anything that rises to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the constitutional threshold for taking that step.

“Creating a new, lower impeachment standard without a clear limiting principle will not secure the border or hold Mr. Biden accountable.” Gallagher wrote In an op-ed published Feb. 6 in the Wall Street Journal. “This only helps open the Pandora’s box of constant blame.”

Gallagher’s departure angered some Republicans in the House. The blame for the embarrassment lay, more accurately, in Speaker Johnson’s apparent inability to count the votes in his own chamber. A Democratic member who had undergone abdominal surgery showed up in a hospital gown to cast the deciding vote, surprising the GOP leadership, which leaves no room for such surprises.

We are old enough to remember that a member of Gallagher’s position could explain such a vote by saying that they were fulfilling their oath to support the Constitution and move on. It seems that those times are behind us, which is the country’s misfortune. Gallagher said it was “with a heavy heart” that he made the decision not to run.

A former Marine who served in Iraq, Gallagher is an expert on foreign affairs and an ardent supporter of U.S. aid to Ukraine. In other words, Gallagher is the kind of GOP House member who, in another era, would be considered straight out of the central cadre.

The Wisconsin native isn’t the only House member to call it a day. More than 40 people, both Republicans and Democrats, are leaving the hall at the end of this Congress. Some, as always, are trying to reach higher positions. But many are done with what the House has become.

They include other respected Republicans, such as Washington state Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the first woman to chair the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. She is only 54 years old.

Impeaching a speaker, trying to remove cabinet members over differences in performance and policy, and repeatedly threatening to shut down the government should wear down those who come to Washington to truly do the nation’s work and make a difference. As many Republicans acknowledge, the House is a MAGA-controlled embarrassment.

The departure of reasonable and principled members like Gallagher and McMorris Rodgers will not improve the situation for Republicans in the House.

In Gallagher’s case, he apparently didn’t want to go; The realities of life as a Republican these days had forced him to do so; in fact, he opposed his leadership on an issue that should have been a matter of individual conscience.

For Gallagher and McMorris Rodgers, voting with their feet like this is a stronger statement about their view of the GOP’s near-term future than any words they might offer. They will be missed.

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