House Foreign Affairs chairman to retire
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (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 Clinton won it by about 9 points in 2016 even as Royce, who has served in the House since 1993, won reelection by 14 points.
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.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) January 8, 2018
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 Stivers (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-Lehtinen (Fla.) and Dave Reichert (Wash.).
Democrats are also eyeing the open swing seats currently held by retiring GOP Reps. Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Charlie Dent (Pa.) and Dave Trott (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 Shuster (Pa.) and Administration Chairman Gregg Harper (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 Hensarling (R-Texas), Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).
House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) is additionally relinquishing her gavel to run for Tennessee governor, while former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (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 Corker (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 Trump.
—Updated at 5:52 p.m.