Two months after his historic ouster as Speaker of the U.S. House, Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy announced Wednesday that he is resigning his congressional seat in California and will leave at the end of the year.
His announcement marked the stunning end of the one-time deli counter owner from Bakersfield, California, who moved through state and national politics as second in line to the presidency before being ousted by a contingent of hard-right conservatives in October. reached.
McCarthy is the only president in history to be forced out of the job.
“No matter the obstacles or the personal cost, we did the right thing,” McCarthy wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal announcing his decision.
“It is in this spirit that I have decided to leave the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways,” he wrote.
A few days before the deadline to file nominations for re-election, an announcement on McCarthy’s future was expected. But his decision spilled over across Capitol Hill, where his departure will make the paper House GOP majority even stronger than before, with just a few seats remaining.
It comes amid a wave of retirements in the House, which has been hit by Republican infighting and the rare removal last week of George Santos, dashing hopes of major achievements and leaving the majority with trouble conducting the basic business of governing. It is happening.
McCarthy had brought Republicans to the majority but found that leading the hardline factions of the GOP was much more difficult.
His ouster from the chamber’s top post was caused by complaints from the hard-right wing of his party, including his decision to work with Democrats to keep the federal government open rather than risk a shutdown.
McCarthy, 58, arrived in the House in January 2007 after a stint in the California Assembly, where he served as minority leader. In Congress, he maneuvered through his party’s hierarchy – serving as majority whip and Republican leader, before being elected speaker in January 2023.
The day-long floor fight ahead of his elevation to the top House post foreshadowed a stormy term, at a time when former US President Donald Trump remains the party’s de facto leader and deep divisions within the GOP have raised serious questions about the party’s ability to Raised. To rule.
McCarthy received a record 15 votes in four days to muster the support needed to win the position he had long desired, ultimately winning by a 216–212 vote with the support of Democrat leader Hakeem Jeffries and six Republican holdouts voting. achieved. Not since the Civil War era has a Speaker’s vote dragged on so many rounds of counting.
McCarthy emerged from the fight weakened, especially given that Republicans had only a delicate margin in the chamber after a projected “red wave” in the 2022 elections failed.
Challenges in the role
Once established as speaker, his famous sense of fundraising and political appeasement was no longer suitable for unifying the contentious far-right faction of his party. And the deals he made to become speaker — including a change in rules that allowed any one MLA to file a motion to remove him — left him vulnerable.
When he became speaker, “he faced new challenges that required a different skill set,” said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College who was once a domestic policy analyst for House Republicans.
And “the deals he made to become Speaker made it almost impossible for him to succeed as Speaker.” McCarthy, the son of a firefighter and a housewife, has long portrayed himself as an unyielding warrior.
He likes to quote his father, who told him, “It’s not how you start that matters, but how you finish.”