House Foreign Affairs chairman to retire

House Foreign Affairs chairman to retire
© Greg Nash

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceTop Dem lawmaker pushing committee for closed-door debrief with Trump’s interpreter Lawmakers target link between wildlife poaching, terror groups GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki MORE (R-Calif.) announced Monday he will retire at the end of the year.

Royce is now the eighth House panel chairman to opt against seeking reelection in 2018. 

He would have potentially faced a tough path to reelection given that his district has become more competitive. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonProminent Putin critic: If Trump turns me over, I'm dead Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia Trump tweets old video of Clinton talking up 'a strong Russia' MORE won it by about 9 points in 2016 even as Royce, who has served in the House since 1993, won reelection by 14 points.

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He also would have had to return to the House as a rank-and-file member and relinquish his Foreign Affairs gavel due to the GOP's rules limiting chairmen to three consecutive terms.

“In this final year of my Foreign Affairs Committee chairmanship, I want to focus fully on the urgent threats facing our nation, including: the brutal, corrupt and dangerous regimes in Pyongyang and Tehran, Vladimir Putin’s continued efforts to weaponize information to fracture western democracies, and growing terrorist threats in Africa and Central Asia," Royce said in a statement.

"With this in mind, and with the support of my wife Marie, I have decided not to seek reelection in November," he said.

Royce’s retirement could make it easier for Democrats to seize a top pickup opportunity in a district won by Clinton.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report adjusted its prognostication for Royce’s district from “Lean Republican” to “Lean Democratic” after his retirement announcement. 

But the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) sounded bullish on its chances for keeping the seat red.

“Orange County has no shortage of Republican talent and a highly organized ground effort with the NRCC at the forefront. We have just one message for Democrats who think they can compete for this seat: bring it on,” NRCC chairman Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversTop GOP campaign official rebuts Trump on Russia threat GOP campaign arm withdraws support from NJ House candidate who made racist statements Progressives’ wins highlight divide in Democratic Party MORE (R-Ohio) said in a statement. 

Royce is the latest House Republican in a district at the top of Democrats’ target list to opt against seeking reelection in what’s expected to be a challenging midterm cycle for the party.

Two other Republicans who represent districts carried by Clinton in 2016 are also retiring: Reps. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenOvernight Energy: Proposed rule would roll back endangered species protections | House passes Interior, EPA spending | House votes to disavow carbon tax House votes to disavow carbon tax 'Paws for Celebration' event brings rescue animals to the Capitol MORE (Fla.) and Dave ReichertDavid (Dave) George ReichertOvernight Energy: Koch backs bill opposing carbon taxes | Lawmakers look to Interior budget to block offshore drilling | EPA defends FOIA process More than 50 Dem House challengers outraise GOP incumbents Lawmakers aim to use spending bill to block offshore drilling MORE (Wash.).

Democrats are also eyeing the open swing seats currently held by retiring GOP Reps. Frank LoBiondoFrank Alo LoBiondoGOP campaign arm withdraws support from NJ House candidate who made racist statements GOP runs into Trump tax law in New Jersey Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks MORE (N.J.), Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentLots of love: Charity tennis match features lawmakers teaming up across the aisle Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups Dem, GOP groups prepare spending blitz for midterms MORE (Pa.) and Dave TrottDavid Alan TrottGOP doubles female recruits for congressional races GOP split on immigration is a crisis for Ryan’s team Pelosi: GOP discharge-petition holdouts helping Ryan ‘save face’ MORE (Mich.).

The relatively high number of open GOP seats underscores the challenges Republicans face this year in keeping their House majority.

Royce’s decision not to seek reelection means House Republicans will have to defend at least 30 open seats this year due to retirements, resignations and lawmakers running for other office, compared to half as many for Democrats.

In the past week alone, two other GOP House committee chairmen also announced their retirements: Transportation Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterOvernight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks House passes bipartisan water infrastructure bill Stakeholder group urges Senate panel to fund Amtrak, Northeast Corridor MORE (Pa.) and Administration Chairman Gregg HarperGregory (Gregg) Livingston HarperLawmakers press Apple, Google on data collection Senate harassment bill runs into opposition from House GOP lawmaker calls on US Olympic Committee chief to resign MORE (Miss.).

Like Royce, Shuster is in his final year as Transportation Committee chairman due to the term limit rules. The same rules led to the retirements next year of Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingOn The Money: Fed chief lays out risks of trade war | Senate floats new Russia sanctions amid Trump backlash | House passes bill to boost business investment House passes bipartisan bill to boost business investment On The Money: US files complaints at WTO | House leaders get deal to boost biz investment | Mnuchin says US will consider Iran sanctions waivers | FCC deals blow to Sinclair-Tribune merger MORE (R-Texas), Science Committee Chairman Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithElection Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Greens sue EPA over ‘super-polluting’ truck rule Lawmakers scold NASA for cost overruns MORE (R-Texas) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteWill Congress ever hold our federal agencies accountable for contempt? Lots of love: Charity tennis match features lawmakers teaming up across the aisle Dems try to end hearing on bias against conservatives in tech MORE (R-Va.).

House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackBrady at White House meeting: House to vote on more tax cuts in September GOP lawmaker introduces legislation labelling first-time illegal border crossing as a felony Scalise throws support behind Black, Blackburn ahead of Tennessee primary MORE (R-Tenn.) is additionally relinquishing her gavel to run for Tennessee governor, while former Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzTucker Carlson: Ruling class cares more about foreigners than their own people Fox's Kennedy chides Chaffetz on child migrants: 'I’m sure these mini rapists all have bombs strapped to their chests' After FBI cleared by IG report, GOP must reform itself MORE (R-Utah) left his post as House Oversight Committee chairman last year to take a position at Fox News.

Black, Chaffetz and Harper were not in their final years as committee chairmen.

Royce’s departure means that both of the House and Senate committees overseeing foreign relations will be led by different people next year. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials McConnell calls for Senate hearings on Russia sanctions MORE (R-Tenn.) announced last year that he would not seek reelection.

Royce co-authored legislation last year to impose sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran, which passed Congress with veto-proof majorities despite reservations from President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE.

—Updated at 5:52 p.m.