Walden retirement adds to GOP election woes

Veteran Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive MORE’s (R-Ore.) announcement Monday that he won’t seek reelection marked the latest sign  of decreasing confidence among Republicans, even those with top committee posts, that the party can win back the House next year.

The Oregon lawmaker’s early departure suggests a growing number of Republicans aren’t certain there’s a viable path for flipping the House in 2020 — a scenario that would have handed Walden two more years as chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), served as head of the Energy and Commerce panel during the 2018 cycle.

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“This is obviously a sign of our inability to take the majority,” one House GOP lawmaker told The Hill after Walden’s announcement. “He’s a former NRCC chair, knows the district well, and I think people are also starting to surmise it’s either a Trump or Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Energy: Major oil companies oppose Trump admin's methane rollback | Union files unfair labor practice charge against EPA USPS inspector general reviewing DeJoy's policy changes Former Obama speechwriter Favreau: 'Hilarious' some media outlets calling Harris a moderate MORE administration we’ll be working under — neither of which is very appealing for good members.”

A GOP energy lobbyist added: “It’s a heavy lift to get back the majority.”

Walden becomes the 21st Republican to forgo reelection, compared with just seven Democrats. He is also the fifth Republican in a senior committee role to announce retirement plans this cycle.

Other GOP ranking members calling it quits include Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopTrump signs major conservation bill into law Overnight Energy: House passes major conservation bill, sending to Trump | EPA finalizes rule to speed up review of industry permits House passes major conservation bill, sending it to Trump's desk MORE (Utah) of the Natural Resources Committee; and three Texans, Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayLive coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing Laughter erupts at hearing after Democrat fires back: Trump 'has 5 Pinocchios on a daily basis' Live coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption MORE of the Agriculture Committee, Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryBottom line Overnight Defense: US to pull 11,900 troops from Germany | Troop shuffle to cost 'several billion' dollars | Lawmakers pan drawdown plan | Trump says he hasn't discussed alleged bounties with Putin Lawmakers torch Trump plan to pull 11,900 troops from Germany MORE of the Armed Services Committee and Rep. Kenny MarchantKenny Ewell MarchantHouse Ethics panel recommends ,000 fine for Rep. Schweikert's campaign finance violations Candace Valenzuela wins Texas runoff to replace retiring Rep. Marchant Ethics Committee reviewing Rep. Sanford Bishop's campaign spending MORE of the Ethics Committee.

Walden, 62, was first elected to the House in 1998 after serving in the Oregon state House and Senate. He previously owned and operated multiple radio stations, leading some on Capitol Hill and K Street to speculate that he could succeed former Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) as president of the National Association of Broadcasters. But the group has denied there are any plans for Smith to step down soon, saying his contract runs until 2023.

“Greg’s career has been defined by success — as a committed local broadcaster, as a bipartisan political bridge builder, and as a brilliant legislator,” Smith said in a statement Monday. “Congress is a better place because of Greg Walden, and I’m certain he will make a positive difference in whatever path his future may hold.”

Walden won his reelection in 2018 by 17 percentage points, and his congressional seat — the only Republican-held House seat in Oregon — is expected to stay in GOP hands. In his retirement announcement, Walden pushed back on the suggestion that House Republicans have little chance at winning back the majority next year.

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“Based on recent polling, strong fundraising, and the backing of my wife and family, I am confident I could earn the support of 2nd District voters for another term,” Walden said. “I’m also optimistic that a path exists for Republicans to recapture a majority in the House, and that I could return for two more years as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.”

Walden said he will not seek any other office but will “close the public service chapter of my life.”

His announcement comes as Republican leaders argue that the House impeachment probe into President TrumpDonald John TrumpUPS, FedEx shut down calls to handle mail-in ballots, warn of 'significant' problems: report Controversial GOP Georgia candidate attempts to distance from QAnon Trump orders TikTok parent company to sell US assets within 90 days MORE is sure to put the House back in GOP hands.

“Make no mistake about it: Backing impeachment will cost the Democrats their majority in 2020,” NRCC Chairman Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerMinnesota Rep. Tom Emmer wins primary Gaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker House Republicans voice optimism on winning back the House following special election victories MORE (Minn.) said last month when Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCongress exits with no deal, leaving economists flabbergasted Trump says he'll sign USPS funding if Democrats make concessions Pelosi calls Trump attacks on mail-in voting a 'domestic assault on our Constitution' MORE (D-Calif.) announced the impeachment probe.

Walden served in Emmer’s role during the 2014 and 2016 election cycles. Republicans expanded their majority in both election years.

As chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over health care issues, Walden played a key role in the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

He led a 27-hour markup of a bill that would repeal and replace ObamaCare, and helped shepherd the measure through the GOP-controlled House. Repeal legislation later fell one vote short in the Senate.

The failure by Republicans to repeal the 2010 health care law — particularly during a unified GOP government — marked a bitter defeat for Walden and the party.

During his two decades in Congress, the affable Walden developed a reputation for civility and working across the aisle. He was instrumental in last year’s passage of bipartisan legislation aimed at combating the opioid epidemic, and he’s worked closely this year with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PallonePharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine Dem chairmen urge CMS to prevent nursing homes from seizing stimulus payments Federal watchdog finds cybersecurity vulnerabilities in FCC systems MORE (D-N.J.) on measures to end surprise medical billing and to stop abusive robocalls.

“The Energy and Commerce Committee has a proud tradition of bipartisanship, and during both his time as Chairman and Ranking Member, Greg has lived up to that tradition,” Pallone said in a statement on Monday.

Walden’s retirement sets off a race to succeed him as the top Republican on the influential panel. Former House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing More than 100 lawmakers urge IRS to resolve stimulus payment issues MORE (R-Wash.) has already signaled she will make a bid for the job, GOP sources said.

Other Republicans more senior than McMorris Rodgers, including Reps. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessTechnical difficulties mar several remote House hearings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Moniz says U.S. needs energy jobs coalition and Manchin says Congress is pushing Wall Street solutions that don't work for Main Street; Burr to step aside The Hill's 12:30 Report: House returns to DC for coronavirus relief MORE (Texas) and Bob Latta (Ohio), could also run. Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseWin by QAnon believer creates new headaches for House GOP Scott Fitzgerald wins Wisconsin GOP primary to replace Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner GOP leaders go into attack mode against Harris MORE (R-La.) is a senior member, but his office indicated he would not run because it would require him to step down from his No. 2 leadership post.

When asked who might replace him as the top Republican on the committee, Walden said it’s up in the air.

“We have top talent at the top tier, and we’ll see who runs for it,” Walden said. “I can’t say it’s always the senior person, as somebody who got elected over the senior person. And so you know it’ll be a fight, a competition.”