Are members of Congress rushing to retire?

Flake: More Republicans will be speaking out
Flake: More Republicans will be speaking out


    Flake: More Republicans will be speaking out


Flake: More Republicans will be speaking out 01:21

(CNN)Dramatic announcements from Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake that they will retire at the end of their terms makes it seem like the Senate is poised for a mass exodus.

But relative to other Senates in history, this Congress is not retiring quickly. If no other senators retire, which is possible, it will be one of only four election cycles since 1914 when only two incumbent senators decided to retire instead of seeking another term.
The real retirement action to date is happening in the House, where Republicans are leaving at a faster clip than any recent years. So far, 18 Republican members have announced retirements and three have resigned, compared with 10 retirements and resignations on the Democrat side. The combined 28 retirements outpace the last several Congresses, with the pace of Republican retirements tipping things over from business as usual to unusual.
    Alarmed, in early September House members were talking about how to stop the bleeding. "We've got to find better ways to empower people where they feel like this is worth their time," Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, a former two-term National Republican Congressional Committee chair who met with several members to discuss retirements, told the National Journal. A few weeks later, Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania announced he would resign after the scandal resulting from an extramarital affair engulfed his office.
    NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers has said that the number of House retirements is below the historic average. But that's only true if an incomplete count is made, leaving out those who say they want to leave their office for other political ambitions. When those members are included and compared against the same data from recent years, the rate of departures is historically high. At this time ahead of the 2016 election cycle, six Republican seats were open. Today, 18 are.
    As CNN's Chris Cillizza points out, members leaving say in-party fighting among Republicans between those who see themselves as the "governing wing" and those putting a higher priority on ideology and combativeness is sowing chaos and dysfunction. That sounds like a lot like the reason Flake gave in his speech on the Senate floor.
    There are reasons to think that more retirements may come in the Senate as well, though not necessarily for the reasons Flake gave.
    Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon says he will back primary challengers against most incumbent Republicans up for re-election. And it was Trump and Bannon's opposition that helped drum up opposition in Arizona to Flake. It's not clear if similar efforts will be as successful in states like Utah, Nevada or elsewhere.
    Some older senators are staying put or staying mum. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, is the chamber's oldest member. She's running for re-election, although Democrats have already jumped in to challenge her and the state's open primary means she could face one of them on Election Day. Sen. Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving member in the Senate is still coy about his intentions.
    There's also the case of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the Democratic senator accused of bribery. If convicted, he could retire.
    Either way, as it stands, the Senate is not falling to pieces just yet. Unless members follow Flake's lead en masse or decide to run for the exits, the House is where Republicans seem to have the most serious attrition problems to worry about.
    Data for this analysis was provided to CNN by Daniel Donner, an editor at Daily Kos Elections, and Dr. Eric Ostermeier, founder and author of Smart Politics and Research Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.