Speaker Johnson 'surprised' by Ken Buck's early retirement

 March 13, 2024

Colorado Republican Ken Buck's announcement that he is retiring early from Congress took Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) by surprise. 

Johnson has had difficulty managing his narrow, divided majority, and that job could get even harder with Buck gone. Republicans now have a two-vote buffer on party-line votes.

Johnson "surprised" by resignation

While it was no secret that Buck was retiring, the news that he would be leaving Washington next week came as a surprise.

The Democratic governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, said the state will hold a special election to fill Buck's seat in June.

Elected in 2014, Buck acquired a reputation as a hard-right conservative before turning against his party over January 6th and Republicans' continued support of President Trump. Buck also vocally opposed efforts to impeach President Biden, saying there wasn't enough evidence.

Buck gave Johnson the small courtesy of a thirty-minute warning over voicemail. Asked about Buck's resignation and what comes next, Johnson said he was "surprised."

"I’m looking forward to talking to him about that,” he added.

"Get the job done"

Like his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, Johnson has been challenged by hard-right Republicans who say he hasn't done enough to rein in government spending.

Buck, one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy last year, told CNN that chaos in Congress drove him to leave.

"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's the worst year in 40, 50 years to be in Congress," Buck said.

Johnson is currently preoccupied with avoiding a government shutdown, having shepherded an $460 billion spending package to President Biden's desk over objections from the right. Congress still has to pass a second spending package to finish funding the government.

While some Republicans have blasted Johnson as a sell-out, he says the narrow majority leaves Republicans with limited bargaining power.

With Republicans down another vote, Johnson insists the party is more united than it looks.

Big things ahead

"We have big things ahead of us but I think everybody understands the stakes and the necessity of working together," he said.

"Sometimes we have to give up our preferences but we’re never gonna compromise core principles,” Johnson added. “But we’ll get the job done.”

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