ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: How the mighty have fallen.
Thursday’s expected retirement announcement by Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., marks a near-complete housecleaning inside House Republican leadership. Reynolds was chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, elections where Republicans expanded their House majority — and then lost it altogether.
Reynolds’ retirement makes him the 29th House Republican to retire or resign this term. And it means that five of the top six members of GOP leadership in the 109th Congress won’t be in office when the 111th Congress convenes next January.
The first to go was Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who started the 109th Congress in 2005 as House majority leader. DeLay resigned his seat in 2006 while facing criminal charges related to allegations of improper fundraising.
Former House speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., followed DeLay out the door in November. Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, who was Republican Conference Chair at the start of the last Congress, announced last summer that she wouldn’t seek another term in 2008.
Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., the former Republican conference secretary, made a similar announcement in January, under a cloud of suspicion related to the Jack Abramoff investigation. Reynolds’ decision leaves Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., as the only high-ranking member of House Republican leadership from 2005 who intends to remain in Congress; Blunt was and remains House Republican whip.
Reynolds squeaked to reelection last fall, and his position inside the Republican caucus was diminished after the party lost control of Congress during the same election that he lead the NRCC.
The rash of GOP retirements will complicate Republican efforts to pick up seats this fall. Democrats have already taken over the Hastert and DeLay seats, and they are running strong candidates in the seats occupied by Reynolds, Pryce, and Doolittle as well.
UPDATE: Ken Spain, an NRCC spokesman, expressed confidence that Republicans will retain the Reynolds seat.
"The registration advantage along with the past presidential performance of the district illustrates just how strong a Republican seat this is," Spain said. "With John McCain at the top of the ticket and widespread disapproval of the Democrat-led Congress, Republican candidates will be provided with plenty of fodder for the fall."