Checking Out: 2018 Congressional Retirements and Resignations in Historical Perspective

  • Hanna K. BrantEmail author
  • L. Marvin Overby


In recent decades retirements/resignations have been a larger contributor to change in the composition of both chambers of Congress than have electoral defeats of incumbents. In this chapter, we consider the impact of retirements (and other forms of non-electoral exits) on the 2018 congressional midterms. Using multivariate models, we examine what factors correlate significantly with retirement decisions, test for a partisan differential in retirement rates (which previous work has found in the House but not the Senate), and compare the rates at which the parties are capable of replacing retirees with co-partisans. Our analysis allows the consideration on the on-going importance of members’ career decisions for the composition of and the partisan balance of power in the US Congress. These career decisions could have substantial implications for the future of the Trump administration and the president’s policy agenda.


Congressional retirements Resignations Ideology Progressive ambition 



The authors are grateful for the constructive suggestions provided by the organizers of and participants in Saint Anselm College’s 2019 American Elections Symposium. During the research and writing of this chapter, Marvin Overby served as a visiting scholar at the Library of Congress’s John W. Kluge Center and acknowledges the support provided by the Center’s excellent staff, particularly the research assistance of Brooklyn Whitmire and Maria Mandanas.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Penn State University-HarrisburgMiddletownUSA

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