Former Speaker McCarthy to Leave Congress at End of Year

Joseph Lord
By Joseph Lord
December 6, 2023Congress

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will leave Congress in a matter of weeks at the end of this year, the California Republican announced.

Mr. McCarthy made the announcement in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, in which he said he was “leaving the House but not the fight.”

The former speaker applauded his conference’s actions during his 269-day speakership, cut short after he was ousted by rebels from within his party in October becoming the first speaker to ever be stripped of the gavel.

“No matter the odds, or personal cost, we did the right thing,” Mr. McCarthy wrote. “That may seem out of fashion in Washington these days, but delivering results for the American people is still celebrated across the country.

“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,” he added. “I know my work is only getting started.”

He said he would “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,” Mr. McCarthy said.

The Bakersfield, California Republican’s departure follows in the footsteps of past Republican speakers like Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who each left Congress after stepping down from the speakership.

After trying to win the office since 2015, Mr. McCarthy finally achieved his longtime goal of becoming speaker in January after a historic 15 rounds of balloting.

Mr. McCarthy faced opposition within his own caucus from the very beginning of the 118th Congress, with conservative lawmakers like Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), and others voting against his taking the office.

He finally won the speaker’s gavel on the 15th round of voting after the six holdouts to his candidacy voted “present,” lowering the total threshold needed to become speaker just enough for Mr. McCarthy to win.

For the next 269 days, Mr. McCarthy reigned over a deeply divided Republican conference. Splits between the chamber’s most conservative members and its most moderate members defined Mr. McCarthy’s time in the speaker’s chair.

During his speakership, Republicans passed wide-reaching bills addressing energy, crime, and immigration policy. However, because the Senate is run by Democrats, few of these bills ended up on President Joe Biden’s desk.

Mr. McCarthy’s victory that gave him the speaker’s gavel was ultimately a pyrrhic one, as his job—won by the thinnest possible margin—was constantly threatened by Mr. Gaetz and other opponents.

Those threats culminated on Oct. 3 of this year with a resolution by Mr. Gaetz to remove him from the speaker’s chair after Mr. McCarthy passed a short-term bill to avert a government shutdown. This move, according to Mr. Gaetz, was a violation of the speaker’s promise in January to return the House to regular order in passing all 12 annual spending bills.

This effort was successful, and Mr. Gaetz joined seven other Republicans and all lower chamber Democrats to declare the speakership vacant. This, in turn, led to three weeks of paralysis in the House that ended on Oct. 25 with the election of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).

Mr. McCarthy began his political career in California, where he served as a member of the California State Assembly from 2002 to 2006. That same year, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

He served as the House Republican deputy whip, and then House Republican whip, between 2009 and 2014.

Later, he moved up to the post of House majority leader under then-Speaker John Boehner.

Following Mr. Boehner’s retirement, Mr. McCarthy made his first, ultimately unsuccessful bid for the speakership. He lost that bid due to controversy about comments he made at the time, choosing to step down from consideration and remain majority leader. Mr. Ryan, a dark horse pick, was elected speaker.

After Mr. Ryan left Congress in 2019, Mr. McCarthy served as minority leader until he was elected speaker this year.

With Mr. McCarthy’s departure, it will be up to California Gov. Gavin Newsome to call a special election to replace him.

That election will almost certainly go in Republicans’ favor.

However, in the interim, with Mr. McCarthy’s departure and the recent expulsion of Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), this exit reduced Mr. Johnson’s majority to only two votes, leaving the Republican conference with a razor-thin majority.

From The Epoch Times

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