WASHINGTON — Representative Mike Gallagher shocked the Republican party when he revealed this month he would leave Congress at the end of the year. Gallagher, who heads the select committee investigating China, is one of four Republican chairs who also have decided to hit the road. 

What You Need To Know

  • Reps. Mike Gallagher, Patrick McHenry, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Mark Green are leaving Congress at the end of the year

  • The four committee chairs are leaving with nearly $9 million combined in their campaign accounts

  • Gallagher had a large chunk of that, with more than $4 million in the bank at the end of 2023

  • Although they will be leaving Congress, they will still be able to spend the money to support other candidates or themselves if they run for another federal office

One of them, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, had also served as the acting speaker of the House following Kevin McCarthy’s ouster. He played a role in the critical legislation last year to raise the government’s borrowing limit.  

“I think after a Congress like this, and being able to play such a pivotal role for these big negotiations, and my committee term limit, those things told me: OK, tap out now. This is the time,” McHenry said. 

Kathleen Dolan, political science professor at UW-Milwaukee, said the Republican chairs leaving Washington signals frustration with the way the House has operated this Congress.

“The House has done very little. The Republican caucus is really divided on some big important issues. And they don’t seem to be able to govern,” Dolan said. 

Dolan adds that perhaps their exits are an indication that they’re less confident Republicans will retain the majority in the House next year. Nevertheless, she said the losses will be felt by the party. 

“As the caucus loses people who have seniority, they lose information and they lose people who understand how the legislative process works,” she said. “And so that hurts the party overall, and the chamber overall if the Republicans keep the majority.” 

The four who are departing their committees are leaving with nearly nine million dollars combined in their campaign accounts, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Although they will leave Congress, they will still be able to spend the money to support other candidates or political action committees, or on themselves if they run for another federal office. But one progressive government accountability group said the money would be better spent elsewhere.

“This is money that was contributed to a campaign for a purpose of getting them elected or re-elected to a specific office,” said Jay Heck, the executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin. “And once a member of Congress has decided they’re no longer going to run for that office, it seems to me that any leftover money ought to be liquidated, that the money should either be donated to a charity, maybe given back to the U.S. taxpayers in the form of a contribution to the debt.”

The Republican committee chairs join over 50 other lawmakers who are retiring from Congress or seeking other office. 

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