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Retiring Republicans could clear the path for GOP troublemakers to join the Senate ranks

Sen. Roy Blunt's retirement highlights the twin challenge facing Senate Republicans: finding good replacement candidates and avoiding a pathway for potential troublemakers to join their ranks.

Why it matters: While the midterm elections are supposed to be a boon to the party out of power, the recent run of retirements — which may not be over — is upending that assumption for the GOP in 2022.


  • People with sharp rhetoric and outlandish style who see themselves as Trumpian figures — similar to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert in the House — may be attracted to the Republican Senate races.
  • And there's no question Donald Trump will want a say in each of the resulting primaries. The question: is the GOP more (Josh) Hawley than Blunt?

Between the lines: As last weekend's drawn-out fight over President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package showed, every vote matters — especially in a 50-50 Senate.

  • Not one Republican voted in favor of the bill. And the entire measure could have been derailed by just one defecting Democrat.

Between the lines: The departing Republicans also pose an internal problem for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as he tries to retain control of his Senate caucus.

  • It's hard to replace serious, smart and productive team players like Blunt, of Missouri, as well as Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Richard Burr of North Carolina.
  • All five are fixtures in Republican politics, know how to get things done and aren't afraid to play ball with Democrats to achieve their aims.
  • Pending retirement also frees these members to make riskier decisions without fear of political consequence — something Portman and Toomey showed when they voted to impeach former President Trump in January.

What to watch: Several other Republicans are also considering retiring in 2022.

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who, at 87 years old, is the second-oldest sitting senator. He's been deliberating for months about whether to seek reelection.
  • One source close to Grassley told Axios he feels increased pressure to hang on for another term, given so many others have dropped out.
  • Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who pledged in 2016 not to seek a third term. President Biden carried Wisconsin by less than a percentage point, making the state one of the tightest battlegrounds for 2022 and 2024.

The bottom line: McConnell has said the midterm elections will come down to one thing: electability.

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NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

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All U.S. adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, meeting Biden's April 19 deadline

All 50 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have now made U.S. adults over the age of 16 eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, meeting President Biden's April 19 deadline.

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Minneapolis braces for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial

Minneapolis is waking up to images of an occupied city on Monday, as the city and the world await a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

What it's like: Residents running errands, picking up dinner and heading to the dog park in recent days encountered heavily-armed National Guard troops stationed throughout the city.

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Russian authorities say jailed opposition leader Navalny has been transferred to hospital

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been hospitalized, one day after his doctor warned that the jailed Putin critic "could die at any moment," Russia's prison service said Monday.

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The state worst hit by the pandemic

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