There were 87 of them in all, the Republican men and women who remade the House of Representatives on November 2, 2010. They swept into office on the Tea Party wave; swept out the first woman speaker, Nancy Pelosi; and in a single day, halted the trajectory of Barack Obama’s presidency.
No longer would the president have a pair of Democratic majorities in Congress to usher through the remainder of the ambitious agenda he hadn’t completed in his first two years. There would be no congressional action to tackle climate change, to reform immigration laws, or to increase the minimum wage. Propelled by an achingly slow economic recovery and voter backlash against the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans elected in 2010 would be the largest class of newcomers to Congress in more than 60 years. They barreled into the Capitol promising to repeal the president’s new health law, to overhaul the tax code and entitlement programs, and to slash a federal deficit that had swelled to more than $1 trillion.
Yet six years later, many of those same Republicans are leaving, departing Washington right alongside the man they had come to fight. More than a dozen are leaving the House in 2016—four are giving up their seats to run for the Senate, and nine more are simply heading home.
Of the 87 Republicans who were sworn in as congressmen in January 2011, nearly one quarter are already gone. Some, like Tim Scott of South Carolina, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and James Lankford of Oklahoma, moved quickly up to the Senate. A few lost their reelection bids in 2012. Michael Grimm of New York is in prison, and Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi died of cancer.