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Republican Rep. Ken Buck to leave Congress next week, narrowing GOP's slim majority

FILE - Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., walks out of the House chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 6, 2024. Buck announced Tuesday, March 12, that he’ll resign next week, narrowing his party’s razor-thin House majority and scrambling the already heated GOP primary to fill his Colorado seat. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

DENVER (AP) — Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck said Tuesday that he'll resign next week, narrowing his party's razor-thin House majority and potentially short-circuiting Rep. Lauren Boebert's effort to succeed him.

Buck, a staunch conservative who already declined to run for reelection as he became increasingly critical of his party's handling of former President Donald Trump, made his surprise announcement in the midst of the House Judiciary Committee's hearing on Special Counsel Robert Hur's investigation into President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents.

During an appearance on CNN, Buck lamented that he hadn't been able to ask a question in the hearing yet even though he is the third-ranking Republican on the committee.

“A lot of this is personal. That's the problem," Buck said. "Instead of having decorum — instead of acting in a professional manner — this place has really devolved into this bickering and nonsense," he said, adding that this was the worst of his nine years in Congress.

Buck’s March 22 departure will reduce the GOP’s House majority to only a five-seat margin and will trigger a special election to serve the remainder of his term. Colorado law requires that it happen in mid-to-late June, and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis announced Tuesday afternoon that he would set it for June 25 — the same day as the Republican primary to replace Buck in November.

Boebert is one of several Republicans running in the primary to replace Buck. She moved across the state to run for Buck's more Republican-friendly seat anchored in Colorado's eastern plains. But before the district's voters have their say, a committee of Colorado Republicans must pick a nominee for the special election held the same day as the primary.

Political insiders were buzzing Tuesday that that nominee is unlikely to be the controversial Boebert, who had no prior ties to the district and has stirred resentment among many Republicans with her maneuvering for the seat. That means there'll be just one Republican nominee on the June 25 special election ballot against whoever the Democrats nominate. The district's many conservative voters will likely be voting for that person to ensure the GOP replaces Buck for the remainder of the year.

Then they'll cast ballots for the primary, in which the nominee Republicans just voted for will likely be a candidate, along with Boebert. That gives whoever the party committee picks as its nominee a major advantage in that primary contest.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Buck alluded to the ability of the local Republican committee to effectively choose his heir.

“Whoever fills that seat both for the next Congress as well as the remainder of this Congress will do a great job,” he said.

Buck said that even though he's resigning, he wants to stay involved politics.

“I just feel there is important work to be done concerning the election and how we choose candidates," Buck added. "So I want to get involved in this election cycle and make sure we choose the best candidate we can.”

Buck is a former federal prosecutor and district attorney in northern Colorado who is a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus. Since the 2020 election, however, he's made a name for himself in Washington breaking with his party on major issues. He voted to certify Biden's presidential win and voted against a Republican push to impeach Biden and against making Rep. Jim Jordan, a major Trump ally, speaker.