Bakersfield Republican will leave at end of month
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA-20), who this fall became the first speaker to be removed from power in the middle of a congressional term, said Wednesday he will resign from office at the end of this month.
His exit is a blow to his successor, Speaker Mike Johnson, and House Republicans, further cutting the already narrow GOP majority and making passing legislation in 2024 even more challenging.
“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, R-Calif., wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.
“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,” he said.
“I will continue to recruit our country’s best and brightest to run for elected office,” McCarthy added. “The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders.”
McCarthy’s timeline means he would depart before the Feb. 13 special election to replace expelled Rep. George Santos, further cutting the Republican majority down to 220 members versus 213 Democrats. That means House Republicans could lose just three votes before requiring Democratic support to pass measures.
McCarthy paired his retirement announcement with a video on X.
“Today I sit here having served as your whip, leader and as the 55th speaker of the House,” he says in the video, citing a list of achievements that he’s proud of. “We kept our government operating and our troops paid while wars broke out around the world. ... I have faith in this country.”
“Now, it is time to pursue my passion in a new arena,” McCarthy said, without going into detail about his next move.
McCarthy was removed as speaker on Oct. 3, setting off a contentious race to replace him. Eight Republican rebels, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) forced out the speaker midsession for the first time in history. That night, McCarthy said he feared “the institution fell today” and quipped that he made a mistake in helping get some of those eight GOP lawmakers elected.
Some McCarthy allies warned that the House vacancies could spell trouble for Republicans in the New Year.
“Congratulations Freedom Caucus for one and 105 Rep who expel our own for the other,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said on X. “I can assure you Republican voters didn’t give us the majority to crash the ship. Hopefully no one dies.”
McCarthy’s departure has long been anticipated since his removal, although his decision to leave before the end of the term will create fresh headaches for his party. Republicans have struggled to pass GOP appropriations bills this fall, and their slimmer majority next year could make it more difficult to pass GOP messaging bills or an impeachment resolution in a key election year.
McCarthy, 58, represents a solidly Republican district based in Bakersfield, which his party is expected to hold onto when it comes before voters again in a special election.
But the seat will be vacant for months. California state law says that after a vacancy occurs, the governor must set a special election within two weeks. That special election must be conducted between 126 and 140 days after the governor’s proclamation.