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Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) announced Thursday that he won't seek re-election in 2020.

Why it matters: Meadows is one of the visible House Republicans and one of President Trump's most loyal defenders on Capitol Hill. He becomes the 24th House Republican to announce his retirement in 2020, further complicating the GOP's path to regaining the chamber's majority next year.

Behind the scenes: Meadows contemplated leaving office for months, but he finalized his decision this week.

  • A source familiar with his decision said the timing of the announcement — the day after the House impeached Trump — was unfortunate but unavoidable, given the filing deadline for his seat is on Friday.
  • "He wanted to announce it post-impeachment to minimize any appearance of it having to do with the vote," the source said.

The backdrop: Meadows was first elected to Congress in 2013. In 2015, he helped found the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and chaired the group from 2016 to 2019.

  • He is currently a lead Republican on the House Oversight and Transportation committees.

What's next: Meadows has no immediate plans to jump into a new role. However, he is open to joining the Trump administration and says he will remain committed to supporting the president.

Full statement from Meadows:

For everything there is a season. After prayerful consideration and discussion with family, today I’m announcing that my time serving Western North Carolina in Congress will come to a close at the end of this term. 
This was a decision I struggled with greatly. These last 8 years, I have been so blessed to serve the people of NC-11 and help give a voice to millions of Americans who feel Washington, DC has forgotten them. Since serving alongside President Trump, I have been a witness to historic economic prosperity, unemployment levels I only dreamed of when I took office, tax and regulatory reforms that are putting the American worker first, our Israeli embassy moved to Jerusalem, and trade deals that were once thought impossible. I have seen our law enforcement and first responders receive the support they deserve and our military once again put on a path to maintain its superiority. Through it all, I am so thankful to have been able to serve and give back to the great country I call home.  
My work with President Trump and his administration is only beginning. This President has accomplished incredible results for the country in just 3 years, and I’m fully committed to staying in the fight with him and his team to build on those successes and deliver on his promises for the years to come. I’ve always said Congress is a temporary job, but the fight to return Washington, DC to its rightful owner, We The People, has only just begun. 
To the people of Western North Carolina: it’s been my honor to be your Congressman. Thank you for your trust, faith, and support. God bless you. 

Go deeper: The members of Congress departing in 2020

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Congress grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Both chambers of Congress on Thursday voted to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the path to confirmation for President Biden's nominee for defense secretary.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.

McConnell proposes February impeachment trial

Sen. Mitch McConnell Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is proposing that the impeachment trial of former President Trump begin in mid-February to allow for due process.

Why it matters: The impeachment trial is likely to grind other Senate business to a halt, including the confirmation process for President Biden's Cabinet nominees.