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A GOP lawmaker is abruptly leaving Congress, making Mike Johnson's life even harder

Mike Johnson and Ken Buck
House Speaker Mike Johnson's life is going to get harder with Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican, abruptly leaving Congress.Getty
  • Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican, abruptly announced that he's leaving Congress next week.

  • House Speaker Mike Johnson will only be able to lose two Republican votes going forward.

  • Johnson's razor-thin majority could get even smaller in April.

Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican, announced on Tuesday that he will leave Congress next week, further weakening the GOP's already thin House majority.

"Everywhere I go in Colorado, Dana, I hear that people are not happy with Trump and they are not happy with Biden, and I think we need to change our electoral laws here," Buck told CNN shortly after his office announced his decision. "And I have passion for that, and I'm going to leave, and I'm going to find the right organization to join, and I'm going to start working on that issue."

Buck had announced in November he wouldn't seek reelection in 2024.

Republicans will hold a 218 to 213 majority after Buck's departure, meaning the GOP will only be able to afford two defections on party-line votes.

House Speaker Mike Johnson's life could get even trickier in April, as Democrats are expected to win a New York special election next month. This could make the House 218 to 214, leaving the GOP with room for just one party-line vote defection, as a tied vote is a failed vote in the chamber.

Buck's decision comes at a critical time for Johnson. House Republicans still need to reach a deal with Senate Democrats and the White House on long-term spending. President Joe Biden and some Republicans are pushing the House to pass a bipartisan foreign-defense bill that provides funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

Unlike the Senate, House seats cannot be filled by temporary replacements, meaning Buck's decision will likely result in his seat being left vacant through early summer. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is responsible for setting the special-election date.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, one of Buck's fellow Colorado Republicans, is facing her own difficult reelection decision. Late last year, Boebert announced she would not seek reelection in her current congressional district, opting instead to run in Buck's more conservative one in an effort to replace him after he left Congress. Boebert, who's been accused of carpetbagging, must now decide if she wants to run for Buck's open seat, which would require her to resign her current seat, raising the possibility of another House special election.

The good news for Johnson is that House Republicans should be able to add to their numbers soon, with a special election in May to replace former Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a heavily Republican district. In the meantime, the GOP holds one of the slimmest House majorities in history.

It can even be a challenge getting every House member in the chamber at the same time. Logistically, GOP leadership must grapple with more than 200 different personal and professional schedules.

Unexpected challenges, including health issues, can arise, too. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise missed a historic vote to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas because of health complications.

A member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, Buck had in recent years become increasingly unafraid to defy his own party. He was one of just three Republicans to vote against impeaching Mayorkas. He has also spoken out against members of his party who continue to question Biden's 2020 election win.

Buck doesn't appear to care that he's made Johnson's life more difficult. In fact, he sounds like he wishes he could have left sooner.

"It is the worst year of the nine years and three months that I've been in Congress, and having talked to former members it is the worst year in 40 or 50 years to be in Congress," Buck told CNN. "But I'm leaving because I think there's a job to do out there that I want to go do."

Read the original article on Business Insider