The Congressional resignations have begun early this cycle. The new Congress has not even been sworn in, and already we have two resignations. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned in the wake of medical admissions for depression and an imminent arrest on political fundraising violations. Now, Republican Jo Ann Emerson will resign from the House in February, to run a trade organization:
U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, announced today she will leave her Congressional post in February to become president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, a not-for-profit organization that represents rural electric cooperatives and public power districts.
Emerson was re-elected in November for a ninth term to the U.S. House of Representatives in Missouri’s Eighth District.
“I am not leaving Congress because I have lost my heart for service — to the contrary — I see a new way to serve,” Emerson said in a news release. “I did not go seeking this opportunity, but I am excited about the new challenge it offers to find ways to promote strong rural policy.”
Neither race should change the partisan makeup in Congress, as both Jackson and Emerson hail from safe seats. The timing, however, is important, considering the important votes that will be taken in the House in the next several months.
Right now the House has a split of 241 Republicans and 192 Democrats. Jackson resigned immediately, and Rep. Dennis Cardoza resigned too late in the cycle for California to schedule a special election. So that’s two Democratic votes that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have in the votes to come. When Congress swears in a new set of House members in November, the split will be 234 Republicans and 200 Democrats, with Jackson Jr. missing. The special election for Jackson’s seat will happen April 9, with a primary February 26. But when Emerson leaves in February, that split will fall to 233-200, and by April will move to 233-201, until the special election to replace Emerson occurs (probably not until June at the earliest). These small shifts may seem insignificant, but when you’re talking about grand bargains and debt limit votes and the like, both sides need all the supporters they can get.
More to the point, the Emerson resignation, unusual because her party sits in the majority and her seniority means that she could garner a plum committee spot, shows how Congress has become a position with less perceived power than, say, a job on K Street. You can still get a lot done from Capitol Hill, but the lure of money from a lobbyist job is still compelling.