The 116th Congress will have the largest, most diverse incoming freshman class in a generation. But this milestone wasn’t achieved just because a bunch of incumbents lost. Well before November 6, more than 50 members of Congress voluntarily chose not to seek re-election and cleared the way for newcomers to compete for a lot of open seats.

Only once since 1930 has the number of voluntary departures been higher than it was this cycle. Members choosing to walk away from the legislative branch include eight Republican committee chairs, as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who became the second speaker in a row to voluntarily give up the gavel of the most powerful position in the House.


The policy-making process today is controlled by party leaders who determine legislative language and strategy. Wielding the gavel may allow a committee chair to set the committee’s agenda, but that agenda isn’t going anywhere unless the leadership allows it to.

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Topics: Representation & Leadership