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House Foreign Affairs chairman to retire

House Foreign Affairs chairman to retire
© Greg Nash

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceDems struggle to mobilize Latino voters for midterms America’s defense forward swagger Poll: Dems lead in 5 critical California House seats 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 ClintonHillary Clinton on if Bill should’ve resigned over Lewinsky scandal: ‘Absolutely not’ Electoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida Trump adds campaign stops for Senate candidates in Montana, Arizona, Nevada 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 StiversFormer TV journalist gives GOP rare dose of hope in Florida House Dem campaign chief presses GOP on banning use of hacked materials Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security 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-LehtinenElectoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida Florida House race in dead heat in district Clinton won in landslide Election Countdown: Big fundraising numbers in fight for Senate | Haley resigns in surprise move | Says she will back Trump in 2020 | Sanders hitting midterm trail | Collins becomes top Dem target | Takeaways from Indiana Senate debate MORE (Fla.) and Dave ReichertDavid (Dave) George ReichertHow the Trump tax law passed: GOP adds sweeteners House battlefield expands as ad wars hit new peak Election Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' MORE (Wash.).

Democrats are also eyeing the open swing seats currently held by retiring GOP Reps. Frank LoBiondoFrank Alo LoBiondoHouse GOP group cuts financial support for Coffman, Bishop Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker On The Money: Broad coalition unites against Trump tariffs | Senate confirms new IRS chief | Median household income rose for third straight year in 2017 | Jamie Dimon's brief battle with Trump MORE (N.J.), Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentMidterms put GOP centrists in peril House GOP group cuts financial support for Coffman, Bishop GOP House candidate placed on leave from longtime position after sexual misconduct allegation MORE (Pa.) and Dave TrottDavid Alan TrottHouse battlefield expands as ad wars hit new peak Dems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests Record numbers of women nominated for governor, Congress 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 ShusterHouse and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix our infrastructure It’s high time for a discussion on infrastructure MORE (Pa.) and Administration Chairman Gregg HarperGregory (Gregg) Livingston HarperGOP lawmakers urge improvements to cyber vulnerabilities resource Bipartisan leaders of House panel press drug companies on opioid crisis Republican chairman wants FTC to review mergers of drug price negotiators 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: Watt's accuser describes sexual harassment claims in stunning testimony | SEC sues Elon Musk for fraud | Mnuchin says GOP hasn’t lost messaging war on taxes Mel Watt's accuser describes sexual harassment claims in stunning testimony House panel invites Watt accuser to testify at Thursday hearing MORE (R-Texas), Science Committee Chairman Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithOvernight Energy: Watchdog to investigate EPA over Hurricane Harvey | Panel asks GAO to expand probe into sexual harassment in science | States sue over methane rules rollback Report on new threats targeting our elections should serve as a wake-up call to public, policymakers Overnight Energy: Watchdog faults EPA over Pruitt security costs | Court walks back order on enforcing chemical plant rule | IG office to probe truck pollution study MORE (R-Texas) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteFusion GPS co-founder will invoke 'constitutional rights not to testify': lawyers House GOP sets deposition deadline for Fusion GPS co-founder Kid Rock, John Rich visit White House for music copyright bill signing MORE (R-Va.).

House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackHow the Trump tax law passed: The final stretch Trump’s endorsements cement power but come with risks The Hill's Morning Report — Trump optimistic about GOP’s midterm prospects as Republicans fret MORE (R-Tenn.) is additionally relinquishing her gavel to run for Tennessee governor, while former Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzEric Trump blasts professor at alma mater Georgetown: ‘A terrible representative for our school’ Matt Schlapp: Trump's policies on Russia 'two or three times tougher than anything' under Obama Tucker Carlson: Ruling class cares more about foreigners than their own people 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 CorkerTrump defends 0B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia Cornyn: 'All the money in the world' won't help O'Rourke win Texas Saudi Arabia, Turkey to form joint investigation into Khashoggi disappearance 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 TrumpTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border MORE.

—Updated at 5:52 p.m.