The impending resignation of Utah Representative Chris Stewart will give House Speaker Kevin McCarthy approximately 20 per cent less room to manoeuvre when trying to cobble together enough GOP votes to pass legislation in the closely-divided House.
Mr Stewart, a former US Air Force pilot who has represented the Beehive State’s second congressional district for over a decade, is set to announce that he will step down from his Congressional seat to care for his wife, Evie Stewart, who is reportedly suffering from unidentified medical issues.
He is the second Utah member to depart the House mid-session in the past six years. The last, ex-Representative Jason Chaffetz, resigned in 2017 while citing a “mid-life crisis” as the reason for his exit. He later accepted a higher-paying job as a Fox News personality.
While Mr Stewart’s district is considered a safe seat for the GOP, the vacancy he will mean Mr McCarthy will only be able to suffer defections from three Republican members on party-line votes if no Democratic members break ranks — at least until his seat is filled by the winner of a special election to be scheduled by Governor Spencer Cox.
It is highly unlikely that a special election for the vacant seat would be won by a Democrat, as Mr Stewart won reelection by more than 30 per cent in 2022.
The six-term congressman is expected to say he will leave office by year’s end, which means the special election could be set to coincide with Utah’s 2024 presidential primary on 5 March 2024.