Kevin McCarthy, booted as House speaker 2 months ago, leaving Congress by year’s end

Associated Press | 12/7/2023, 6 p.m.
Two months after his historic ouster as U.S. House speaker, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday that he is resigning …
Rep. McCarthy

LOS ANGELES - Two months after his historic ouster as U.S. House speaker, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday that he is resigning and will leave Congress by the end of the year.

His announcement capped a stunning end to a House career for the onetime deli counter owner from Bakersfield, Calif., who ascended through state and national politics to become second in line to the presidency, until a cluster of hard-right conservatives engineered his removal in October.

Rep. McCarthy is the only speaker in history to be voted out of the job.

“No matter the odds, or personal cost, we did the right thing,” Rep. McCarthy wrote in The Wall Street Journal, announcing his decision. “It is in this spirit that I have decided to depart the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways.”

Word about McCarthy’s future had been expected, days before the filing deadline to seek re-election to the House. But his decision ricocheted across Capitol Hill, where his departure will leave the already paper-thin House GOP majority even tighter, with just a few seats to spare.

It adds to the wave of retirements in the House, which has been split by Republican infighting, and the rare expulsion last week of indicted GOP Rep. George Santos of New York, dashing hopes for major accomplishments and leaving the majority straining to conduct the basic business of governing.

Rep. McCarthy had brought the Republicans into the majority but found it was much more difficult to lead the GOP’s factions.

His toppling from the speaker’s post was fueled by grievances from his party’s hard-right flank, including over his decision to work with Democrats to keep the federal government open rather than risk a shutdown.

House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a Republican who succeeded Rep. McCarthy, tweeted that Rep. McCarthy “served faithfully and sacrificed substantially for the good of our country and our cause.”

Rep. McCarthy, the son of a firefighter and a homemaker, has long depicted himself as a tireless battler. He is fond of quoting his father, who told him, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

Rep. McCarthy is from a Republican-leaning area in Central California where oil derricks blanket hillsides and country music fans pack into Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace hall. Far from the Southern California beaches and San Francisco’s restaurants, farming and oil pumping shape the economy.

It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen with the vacancy, which could have implications for Republican control.

Only a handful of seats separate the two parties. In California, Friday is the last day for candidates to file paperwork to enter the 2024 elections. If the vacancy occurs before the end of that period, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom would be required to call a special election to fill Rep. McCarthy’s seat.

If Rep. McCarthy steps down after that time, it would be up to the governor to decide whether to call a special election.