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GOP House Majority to Shrink as Ken Buck Sets March 22 Departure

(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Mike Johnson’s slender Republican majority will grow smaller as Colorado Congressman Ken Buck announced plans to leave on March 22.

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Buck already said in November he wouldn’t run for reelection, but his decision to leave Congress early will shrink the House Republican majority to 218 to 213. Johnson has already struggled to maintain control of his fractious, ideologically divided party.

The speaker told reporters Tuesday he was “surprised” by Buck’s announcement. “I did not know,” he said.

Johnson can only afford two GOP defections on party-line bills, which won’t change with Buck’s departure. But an April 30 special election in a Democratic-leaning Buffalo, New York-area district could cut that to a one-defection margin, since a tie vote loses in the House. A special election to replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a safely Republican California district follows just over three weeks later.

Buck was one of eight Republican lawmakers to join in ousting then-Speaker McCarthy. He has recently broken with the Republican House majority over the impeachment drives against President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Though a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, he’s criticized Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump and broke with Trump by voting to certify the 2020 presidential election results.

In an interview with NewsNation last week, Buck, a former Colorado Republican state party chairman, expressed disenchantment with his party.

“We’re at a time in American politics that I am not going to lie on behalf of my presidential candidate, on behalf of my party,” Buck said. “I’m very sad that others in my party have taken the position that as long as we get the White House, it doesn’t really matter what we say.”

Buck didn’t give a reason for resigning early in a statement issued Tuesday.

“I will depart Congress at the end of next week,” he said. “I look forward to staying involved in our political process, as well as spending more time in Colorado and with my family.”

His resignation may complicate the reelection campaign of Republican firebrand Representative Lauren Boebert, whose Colorado district has been redrawn to include more Democratic voters. After Buck announced plans not to seek reelection, she said she would run instead in Buck’s district.

She would have to resign her current seat if she is elected to replace Buck in a special election to fill the seat later this year, or risk running against an incumbent.

Colorado law calls for a special election to fill Buck’s vacant seat between 85 and 100 days of his official resignation.

--With assistance from Maeve Sheehey.

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