Incumbent members of Congress see tough roads ahead

In the House, the impact of retired lawmakers is already evident on the Republican side of the aisle: Representative Adam Kinzinger, who is leaving his seat in Illinois, voted to raise the debt ceiling in 2021 and avoid a catastrophic default on the national debt. debt. Seven of the nine Republicans who voted last month to keep open government are leaving Congress, either defeated by a primary opponent or walking out when the odds are good.

Despite their own track records of bipartisanship and constructive accomplishments, several lawmakers said they grew unhappy with the way the legislation was largely ceded to leadership. They also feared that fears of retaliation from each party’s ideological base had derailed long-held ambitions to change immigration laws or challenge the power of the country’s tech companies.

This Congress also had wafer-thin majorities in both houses, which helped fuel the growing deadlock as competing priorities cluttered the legislative calendar.

Describing how she envisioned how the capital would work before she arrived a decade ago, Rep. Cheri Bustos, Democrat from Illinois, said: ‘There would be this real exchange, a deep dive into the nation’s priorities .” Laughing, she added, “That’s not what’s happening in Washington.”

After years of spending weekends in her district, advocating for bipartisan legislation and funneling millions of federal dollars to organizations and voters in a swing seat, Ms. Bustos cited the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and the deep psychological wounds she had inflicted on lawmakers and her own family as major factors in the decision not to seek another term. In the days following the attack, several Democrats refused to work with any Republicans who had opposed certifying Mr. Biden’s victory, and relations remain frayed.

“I still remember my husband saying, ‘Things aren’t going to get better there,'” she said. “We govern to the extremes – the American public will continue with their disgust at the way Congress conducts itself.”

In their final weeks, retired lawmakers have been busy tidying up their desks, attending farewell parties and working to send a final priority into the law. (Mr. Burr, known for being sockless in the austere halls of the Capitol, was figuring out what to do with the socks people had given him over the years.) They also reflected on the accomplishments of their tenure and hoped their legislation would last. long after they left, even in a stormy Congress.

“To me, that’s the loneliest position to be in,” Burr said. “If I had nothing and really wondered if I had wasted 28 years of my life.”

Catherine Edmondson and Carl Hulse contributed report.


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