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Colorado Rep. Ken Buck resigning from Congress before month's end, narrowing GOP majority

Congressman Ken Buck announces resignation from Congress
Congressman Ken Buck announces resignation from Congress 00:38

Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican who represents Colorado's reliably red 4th Congressional District, said Tuesday he will resign before his term is up, further narrowing the GOP's majority in the chamber. 

Buck had previously announced he would not seek reelection at the end of his term, which ends in November. But he announced on Tuesday that his resignation will be effective on March 22, releasing a short statement about his decision.

"It has been an honor to serve the people of Colorado's 4th District in Congress for the past 9 years. I want to thank them for their support and encouragement throughout the years. Today, I am announcing that I will depart Congress at the end of next week. I look forward to staying involved in our political process, as well as spending more time in Colorado and with my family," he said.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol later in the day, the five-term congressman cited dysfunction in Congress and increasing political polarization as reasons for his departure. He pointed to the House vote to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the ongoing impeachment probe against President Biden.

Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, speaks to the media following a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.
Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, speaks to the media following a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"I voted against the impeachment of Mayorkas and made it plain and simple that I don't think that the impeachment of Biden is appropriate," he said. "And so [House Speaker] Mike Johnson's ability to talk me into staying here, is going to be about as successful as his ability to talking me into unconstitutional impeachments."

Earlier, Buck appeared on CNN and said his recent experience in Congress has been filled with problems: "It is the worst year of the nine years and three months that I've been in Congress."

His decision to step aside reduces Republicans' already slim majority in the lower chamber from three seats to two. House leaders on Capitol Hill seemed surprised by Buck's sudden announcement. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House majority leader, said he's "curious to see why he's leaving so early." 

Johnson, the speaker, said he's looking forward to talking with Buck about his decision to depart. The Louisiana Republican said that his strategy to unite his conference would remain the same, despite the narrower majority. 

"Build consensus, keep the coalition together. I'm confident we can do that," he told reporters. "I think everybody understands the stakes and the necessity of working together. Sometimes we got to give up our preferences, but we're not going to compromise core principles, but we'll get the job done."

Under the Constitution, a House vacancy must be filled by a special election. In a statement later Tuesday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said the race to fill Buck's seat would be held on June 25, coinciding with the state's primary elections for House races.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican who represents Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, previously said she is leaving her district to run for Buck's seat in November's election. It wasn't immediately clear whether she would seek Buck's seat in the special election.

Colorado's 4th Congressional District includes most of the rural eastern half of Colorado and the heavily populated Douglas County in the southern part of the Denver metro area. It also includes the city of Loveland in Northern Colorado. Aside from Democrat Betsy Markey, who served from 2009 to 2011, the district hasn't had a Democratic representative since 1973.

CBS News Colorado Political Specialist Shaun Boyd spoke with Buck shortly after he made his announcement. He told her that he wants to change the way the nation selects candidates at all levels of government so that voters have better options. He pointed to the presumptive presidential nominees — President Biden and Donald Trump — as an example of the system not working right.

The big question now is, what happens to his seat?

CBS News Colorado's Republican analyst Dick Wadhams says the party can't just appoint Buck's replacement, since the U.S. Constitution requires a special election.

Wadhams says the 4th Congressional District chairs from both parties will likely reconvene their 2022 conventions, which consist of hundreds of delegates from all 21 counties in the district. Each convention will then choose one nominee to be on the special election ballot. The election needs to happen within 75 to 90 days of Buck's resignation, which puts it at the end of June when both parties are already holding primary elections.

Wadhams says Colorado could have two elections with two different outcomes. The winner of the special election would hold office for the next seven months, he says, but if that person loses the primary, he or she wouldn't be on the general election ballot or hold office after November.

If that person is Boebert, Wadhams says, it creates an even trickier situation: "If she runs and wins in the special election, she would have to immediately resign from the 3rd District, causing a vacancy in the 3rd District, which would prompt — presumably — a special election in the 3rd District before the end of the year."

Wadhams says there's also a chance Boebert's seat in the 3rd District would sit vacant until after the November election. Her chances of winning the special election, he says, are likely good if the party reconvenes the 2022 convention. It includes so many MAGA Republicans. Buck, who has been critical of Trump, almost didn't make the ballot in 2022.

Wadhams says he's aware of only one other vacancy like this in Colorado. In 1983, former Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert died from cancer after being elected to Congress, setting up a similar special election.

Jaala Brown and Nikole Killion contributed reporting.

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