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Congress’ Ch-Ch-Changes

Retirements, resignations and deaths around the Capitol


The spectacle of politics and how it fits, or doesn’t, into the nation’s culture. Subscribe to our newsletter here.

Change Coming

Congress is going through one of those times when everything seems to be changing, especially the personnel, and that’s not even counting the mounting pile of retirements and resignations among lawmakers. 

UNITED STATES - APRIL 18: Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, blesses the walnut tree during the tree planting ceremony in memory of Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy, seen here blessing the walnut tree Wednesday during the tree planting ceremony in memory of Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., has announced his retirement. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

On Monday, House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy, a Jesuit priest, announced he would be leaving his post, which he has held since 2011. That news came the same day Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Michael C. Stenger would be the new Senate sergeant-at-arms, replacing Frank J. Larkin. 

The latest Political Theater Podcast discusses what folks like these do — Ed Pesce, the editor of CQ Senate, describes it as tending to lawmakers’ bodies, minds and spirits. Their influence reaches beyond their extensive ceremonial features, as recounted by a 2012 anecdote concerning Senate Chaplain Barry Black, who ministered to Sen. Daniel K. Inouye on the Hawaii Democrat’s deathbed at Walter Reed Army Hospital. 

Listen to the podcast here:

Take This Job and …

The retirements and resignations, they just keep coming. 

UNITED STATES - APRIL 17: Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., leaves a meeting of the GOP Conference at the Capitol Hill Club on April 17, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., expects to leave Congress in May. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It was just last week that Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., announced he would not run for re-election, setting off a leadership scramble and questions about his seat back home. Comes now Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., who had announced last year he would not run for re-election and then on Tuesday said, you know, I don’t need to be here much longer. He expects to resign his seat sometime in May. 

That could set off a special election in Pennsylvania (Didn’t we just have one of those?) Or not. Depends on the timing and the governor. And it would be for the district Dent currently represents, which is going bye-bye because the state Supreme Court declared the current congressional map an unconstitutional gerrymander. So a special election would be for a seat that won’t exist but for a few more months, even as the Democrats and Republicans vying to replace him next year are running for a differently apportioned district

Clear as mud. 

Of Rattlesnakes and Men

Speaking of that announcement by the speaker, we feel compelled to point out that it kind of overshadowed the retirement announcement of Rep. Dennis A. Ross, R-Fla., the same day

Elected in the tea party wave in 2010, Ross will always be, to us, the congressman with a stuffed rattlesnake in his office. 

UNITED STATES – OCTOBER 12: A rattle snake sits on Rep. Dennis Ross's dek in his Cannon House Office Building office. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
A rattlesnake sits on Rep. Dennis A. Ross’s desk in his Cannon Building office in 2011. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)


The Capitol community bade farewell, formally, to two fixtures this week.

On Tuesday, members, his colleagues and friends gathered in the Members Room at the Library of Congress to memorialize onetime staffer Ed Lorenzen, who was a senior aide to House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and former Rep. Charles W. Stenholm, D-Texas, and an old hand in budget circles. Lorenzen and his son died in a tragic house fire in January, shocking those who knew him. 

 House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., right, Reps. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., listen to rendition of
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Reps. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., listen to rendition of “Amazing Grace” during a memorial service Wednesday for Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Slaughter, pictured at left, passed away on March 16 at the age of 88. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Then on Wednesday, Congress and family gathered in Statuary Hall for the memorial service for Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, the trailblazing Democrat who was the first woman to chair the Rules Committee and whose Kentucky charm and New York sass won her friends and respect over more than three decades in Congress. Slaughter died last month after suffering a fall.

 The Kicker

beetle1/031202 - Rep. Louise Slaughter, Co-Chair, Congressional Arts Caucus, paints a VW New Beetle Congressional Arts Caucus before a press conference to launch
Slaughter, co-chairwoman of the Congressional Arts Caucus, paints a Volkswagen New Beetle before a 2001 press conference to launch “Expressing Freedom: A National Juried Art Exhibition for Young Artists with Disabilities,” sponsored by VSA Arts and Volkswagen of America. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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