Rep. Cheri Bustos still remembers her husband’s warning after she and her colleagues were trapped in the House chamber by violent rioters.
“‘It is not going to get better out there,’” the Illinois Democrat recalled her county sheriff spouse telling her. The following year proved him right, Bustos added: “It’s only gotten worse.”
Bustos is one of several retiring Democrats who told POLITICO that the insurrection, and the months of personal vitriol in the House that followed, propelled their decision not to seek reelection next November.
It started before the attack on the Capitol; some cross-aisle relationships began souring far earlier in Donald Trump’s term, while others started to fray amid the 2009 rise of the conservative Tea Party. But interviews with many House Democrats, from senior members to rank and file, point to Jan. 6 as the night that truly broke the House — perhaps for a generation.
And the biggest affront wasn’t the violence itself by the former president’s supporters, but the votes by more than 140 of their GOP colleagues against certifying Joe Biden as president, hours after rioters threatened them with that same goal. Those votes severely damaged trust among lawmakers. Without trust, it’s become harder to get just about anything done on the House floor.