House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dismissed any worries that House Republicans might have any trouble retaking the majority after a wave of his rank-and-file members announced their retirements during the August recess.
“Well, let’s think about retirements here — when you look at retirements, it is very sad when someone wants to depart … [but] it’s good to have new blood going through,” McCarthy told Fox News host Bill Hemmer on Monday.
The minority leader harkened back to former Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-TX) announcement in 2017 that he would not be seeking re-election when his term expired. Poe was chairman and vice chairman of multiple subcommittees on the prestigious House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He also sat on the House Judiciary Committee.
At the time, Poe’s resignation was considered a blow to the party, but he was ultimately succeeded by Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a former Navy SEAL who is now considered to be one of the party’s rising stars.
“I was very sad when Ted Poe departed in the last Congress,” McCarthy said. “But who followed him? Dan Crenshaw.”
As Congress comes back into session after the summer recess, 15 Republicans have already announced they will be stepping down, either at the end of their term or months beforehand. While some districts, such as those currently represented by Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Pete Olson (R-TX), are expected to be top-tier battlegrounds going into 2020, the majority of Republican vacancies are in safely red districts.
McCarthy also praised Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the latest to announce his resignation, as a “tremendous congressman,” but noted that he has been serving for more than four decades. Sensenbrenner is currently the second-longest serving member in the U.S. House of Representatives and his district is considered a Republican stronghold. The Wisconsin lawmaker won re-election in 2018 by more than 20 points.
“All of these [retirements] have a basis, but there’s no concern in the basis of whether we’re going to gain the majority back,” McCarthy said. “Thirty-one Democrats sit in seats that President [Donald] Trump carried; we only have to win 19 [seats]. Democrats had to win 23 [seats] in the last cycle. We have fewer seats to gain with a bigger playing field to go.”
The Republican minority leader also pointed to Army veteran and Houston-area businessman Wesley Hunt, who is running to take back Texas’ 7th Congressional District after Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D-TX) flipped it blue during the 2018 election cycle. Fletcher and nine-term incumbent Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) were neck-and-neck throughout the duration of their 2018 campaigns, but Fletcher ultimately edged out a victory by just over 12,000 votes.
“A West Point graduate, flew apaches,” McCarthy said of Hunt. “They just did a recent poll, he’s ahead in he poll running against the incumbent.”
“We have a transformation that’s happening in the Republican Party with new blood coming in that’s only going to make the team stronger,” he continued. “I know that is what’s going to carry us to the new majority.”