Dec 6, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Kevin McCarthy to resign from Congress at end of December

Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced Wednesday he will step down from Congress at the end of the year, leaving the House GOP with an even slimmer majority until a special election to fill his seat can be held.

Why it matters: McCarthy's exit comes in the wake of a group of conservative hardliners successfully ousted him from his leadership position in a historic vote in October, placing the California Republican in an awkward position within his conference.

What they're saying: "No matter the odds, or personal cost, we did the right thing. That may seem out of fashion in Washington these days, but delivering results for the American people is still celebrated across the country," McCarthy wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed about his time leading House Republicans.

  • "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. I know my work is only getting started."
  • "I will continue to recruit our country's best and brightest to run for elected office. The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders."

The big picture: The announcement is a pivot from his previous rhetoric in which he asserted he would remain in Congress.

  • Speculation began to grow that he would step down in November, with GOP sources noting he posted a photo on Instagram where his district office appeared to be in the process of being packed.
  • McCarthy — who first came to Congress in 2007 — swiftly climbed the leadership ladder, facing an unsuccessful attempt to get the gavel in 2015 before becoming House minority leader and later speaker after a tumultuous 15-round speaker vote.
  • Eight conservative hardliners argued that McCarthy broke the terms of their agreement made during the initial speaker race by passing a clean stop-gap spending bill and forced a motion to vacate, which Democrats ultimately backed.

The intrigue: Tensions between McCarthy and his critics have been evident since the motion to vacate, took place with some members stating that the sympathy he garnered following the leadership ouster waned due to his handling of speaker’s race to replace him.

  • Multiple lawmakers said they were not surprised by his decision to leave, noting that it can’t be easy to lose influence after being replaced.
  • McCarthy has repeatedly taken aim at the eight Republicans that voted to oust him, with some members speculating he will spend heavily in primaries and elections to unseat them.

What to watch: After the expulsion of former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Bill Johnson’s (R-Ohio) expected early exit, some Republicans have voiced concerns about their razor-thin majority shrinking further.

  • “Pretty soon we won’t be able to have two Republicans in the same car,” one GOP lawmaker quipped.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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