Rep. Dent: The New GOP ‘Litmus Test’ Is ‘Are You Loyal Enough’ To Trump?

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., a key moderate in the health care bill debate, explains why he would be voting "no" on the Obamacare replacement, Thursday, March 23, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican leadership are scrambling for votes on their health care overhaul in the face of opposition from reluctant conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, such as Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., being interviewed at right. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Retiring Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) said one reason he’s not seeking reelection is because of the shift he’s seen in the balance of power between moderate and conservative members of his party.

“I’ll tell you what, the battle prior to Donald Trump was this: We had the purists versus the pragmatists — and the pragmatists were largely the governing wing of the party, of which I was a part,” he said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” Monday evening. “That was the battle, that was the litmus test. Now since Donald Trump has become President, the litmus test is more Trump loyalty — are you loyal enough?”

While Dent said Trump played a role in his retirement from Congress, it’s something he has been thinking about since September 2013, when right-wing members of his party shut down the government over a budget impasse.

He said he wants to leave the job “at the top of my game, some people hang on too long.”

“We were having challenges prior to Donald Trump. I mean the simple basic task of governance — just funding the government through a continuing resolution or preventing a default. These shouldn’t be very difficult things to do. But they became excruciatingly hard,” he said. “We have some responsibilities. And we just can’t get them done. And if you can’t take care of the basics, the fundamentals, then how can you advance big policy initiatives like tax reform, health care reform, infrastructure. That’s I guess the frustration for me.”

Dent, a moderate Republican, announced last week that he would not seek reelection when his term is up in 2018, The Washington Post first reported.

Dent is one of four Republicans from competitive districts that have announced they’ll retire when their term is up. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Dave Trott (R-MI) have all announced this year that they’re done with Congress.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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