Frelinghuysen Latest Addition to Republican-Heavy “Congressional Casualty List”—Why it Matters to Nonprofits

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January 29, 2018; Politico

Regardless of which party controls the US House and Senate after the 2018 elections, there will be many new faces in leadership. These changes will affect power dynamics for interest groups as well as voters and constituents.

On Monday, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) announced his decision to retire from Congress after serving out his current term. Frelinghuysen, despite being chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, was anticipating a difficult re-election fight in his New Jersey district. He has served in Congress since 1995, the latest member of an influential New Jersey and American political family going back to the Revolutionary War.

His decision is the latest of an unusually high number of similar announcements. According to the US House Press Gallery’s “Casualty List,” overall, 56 House members and five senators have resigned or chosen to retire since the 115th Congress took office in January 2017. Four out of the five senators and 40 of the 56 House members on the list are Republicans. In all, 31 GOP committee chairs and subcommittee chairs are among those who will no longer be serving in 2019, along with six Democratic ranking committee members and an unknown number of Democratic subcommittee ranking members.

The reasons for the decisions are varied, including old age, running for a different office, not relishing yet another political campaign, or being disgraced as a result of scandal. In addition, four House members and one senator were appointed to senior Cabinet-level posts, requiring them to resign from Congress before joining the Trump administration. No senator or House member has died in office during the current Congress.

There’s still time for more resignations and retirements before 2018 campaigns begin in earnest. It’s unclear how these announcements will affect House races, but thus far, the professional political handicappers are not seeing much change happening in the makeup of the US Senate, despite talk of a Democratic “wave” election similar to the GOP elections in 1994 and 2010.

What’s important now is for nonprofit sector advocates to track the casualty list and solidify (or establish) relationships with the likely leaders in the upcoming 116th Congress.—Michael Wyland