Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain

Senate Republicans are facing a brain drain as some of the caucus’s biggest dealmakers prepare to head for the exits. 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntEight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division The Hill's Morning Report - Will Schumer back down on his deadline? GOP fumes over Schumer hardball strategy MORE’s (R-Mo.) announcement this week that he will not run for reelection is the latest blow for the GOP’s governing wing of the Senate, a coalition of policy wonks and bipartisan-minded institutionalists who have been at the center of the biggest legislative accomplishments. 

Though the membership of Congress is always in flux — a third of the Senate is up every two years and the full House every two — the turnover amongst some of the most successful GOP negotiators is particularly acute. 

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“There’s a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge leaving. ... It's a loss of a lot of institutional memory,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBiden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division Federal officials abroad are unprotected — in a world of increasing volatility MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance Five takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony McCarthy, McConnell say they didn't watch Jan. 6 hearing MORE (R-Ky.).

In addition to Blunt, Sens. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOvernight Defense: Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill | House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors | US increases airstrikes to help Afghan forces fight Taliban On The Money: Schumer, Warren call on Biden to extend student loan pause | IMF estimates 6 percent global growth this year Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill MORE (R-Ala.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBiden, Sinema meet as infrastructure talks hit rough patch Feehery: It's time for Senate Republicans to play hardball on infrastructure The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Crunch time for bipartisan plan; first Jan. 6 hearing today MORE (R-Ohio), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrBipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Bipartisan group to issue 'promising' statement on infrastructure path forward First responders shouldn't have to tackle tigers MORE (R-N.C.) are all expected to retire at the end of 2022. 

Each holds a top GOP committee spot. Blunt and Shelby, in particular, are known for their ability to craft deals; Portman and Toomey are well versed in policy and Burr has earned the respect of Democrats for his work as Intelligence Committee chairman. 

Other GOP senators seen as dealmakers have also left the Senate in recent years. 

Former Sens. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.) and Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsBob Dole, Pat Roberts endorse Kansas AG Derek Schmidt for governor Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Kan.) — two GOP chairmen with big bipartisan accomplishments — retired at the end of 2020. Former Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonCritical race theory becomes focus of midterms Former Georgia ethics official to challenge McBath Loeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run MORE (R-Ga.) stepped down in 2019 due to health reasons. 

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The end of 2018 saw the departure of former Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchDrug prices are declining amid inflation fears The national action imperative to achieve 30 by 30 Financial market transactions should not be taxed or restricted MORE (R-Utah), then the chairman of the Finance Committee; Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.), then the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (R-Ariz.), a conservative who was willing to buck his party. Former Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices Biden nominates Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey MORE (R-Ariz.) died in 2018. 

Asked about the trail of departures, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiEight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division Manchin grills Haaland over Biden oil and gas moratorium The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Crunch time for bipartisan plan; first Jan. 6 hearing today MORE (R-Alaska) interjected “all of the institutionalists?” 

“I think about just the years of legislating that they have brought to these discussions, it’s going to be a real loss. A loss for the institution really,” Murkowski said. 

“Over the years, Congress has changed and we’ve seen different leaders rise, perform and leave. … But it just seems like, it seems like, we're losing so much of that substantive tenure in a very short period,” she added. 

It’s far from certain the current exits will be the only ones for Senate Republicans. Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOvernight Health Care: CDC advises vaccinated to wear masks in high-risk areas | Biden admin considering vaccine mandate for federal workers Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division Four senators call on Becerra to back importation of prescription drugs from Canada MORE (Iowa), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee and the panel's former chairman, isn’t expected to make a decision about running for another term until the fall. Murkowski — who Trump has threatened to campaign against — also hasn’t said if she will run for reelection. 

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Murkowski, asked if she had made a decision on 2022, said, “I have to do it before 2022.” 

The departures are being watched closely by Democrats. 

“These are people I’ve worked with for years. They harken back to an era where there was bipartisan cooperation so I’m worried about their absence,” said Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinBiden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Senators scramble to save infrastructure deal Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (D-Ill.). 

Asked if he had seen the same interest in bipartisanship from newer members, Durbin replied, “not yet.”

The changing of the guard comes as many GOP institutionalists are replaced with Republicans more in the mold of former President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE.

GovTrack, a congressional analysis website, ranked Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnBiden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Biden's misinformation crackdown spotlights partisan divide on content reform White House looks to cool battle with Facebook MORE (R-Tenn.) as the senator most ideologically to the right in 2019. Her predecessor, Corker, was ranked 47 in 2018. 

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who replaced former Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), has a 100 percent Trump score according to FiveThirtyEight. Shelby, while still a typical Trump vote, was at 90 percent. Former Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySchumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ariz.) voted with Trump 94.9 percent of the time; McCain, whose seat she was appointed to, was at 83 percent. 

Republicans only need a net gain of one seat to win back the majority next year. But they are defending 20 seats in 2022, including two in states won by Biden: Pennsylvania, where Toomey is retiring, and Wisconsin, where Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGrassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa Sunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe Democrats question GOP shift on vaccines MORE (R) hasn’t made a decision but suggested recently his preference is to leave after 2022. 

Open seats could attract Trump loyalists, which could tilt the Senate GOP further toward Trump if they are elected.

Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksDOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit Ex-Sen. Jones rips Mo Brooks over 'irony' remark on Texas Democrats getting COVID-19 Justice in legal knot in Mo Brooks, Trump case MORE (R-Ala.), the House firebrand who supported efforts to overturn the election results, has indicated that he’s looking at running for Shelby’s seat. Rep. Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithTrump unhappy with Guilfoyle backing Greitens: report Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri GAO rules Biden freeze on border wall funds legal MORE (R-Mo.) — who votes with Trump 94 percent of the time according to FiveThirtyEight — also said Tuesday that he’s considering a run for Blunt’s seat. 

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“I would definitely compare my record for working class families and my conservative credentials against anyone that's named. ... So, I am considering it,” he said. 

It’s possible other senators will step into the shoes of the dealmakers. GOP senators who have been willing to cut deals include Murkowski, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: CDC advises vaccinated to wear masks in high-risk areas | Biden admin considering vaccine mandate for federal workers Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Crunch time for bipartisan plan; first Jan. 6 hearing today MORE (Maine), Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden Bipartisan congressional commission urges IOC to postpone, relocate Beijing Games Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks MORE (Fla.) and others. 

“I think some of that is because of their experience, they have maybe a more extensive and nuanced understanding of not just the short-term but long-term consequences of doing things,” Cornyn said. “My experience is if we’ve got 50 others, people do step up.” 

Blunt, asked on Tuesday about senators leaving from the institutionalist wing of the party, questioned if that was “fair to the members that are staying,” predicting that senators who might be more ideological now would step up to fill any void. 

Speaking to reporters in Missouri on Monday, Blunt warned his potential successors of drawing hard lines on what they would never agree to. 

“I think the country in the last decade or so has sort of fallen off the edge with too many politicians saying, ‘If you vote for me I'll never compromise on anything,’ ” Blunt said. “The failure to do that — that's a philosophy that particularly does not work in a democracy.”