McCarthy says he will leave Congress at the end of the year

December 8, 2023

About two months after being ousted as Speaker, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said he would exit the House a year early. The former Speaker—who made history as the first to be ousted from that post—announced on Wednesday, December 6, that he would leave the House at the end December, but said he planned to remain engaged in Republican politics, reports The Hill.

McCarthy’s resignation—which he announced in an opinion essay in The Wall Street Journal—will bring to a close a 16-year stint in Congress in which he rose from a member of the self-proclaimed “Young Guns”—Republicans driving to build their party’s majority in the House— to the position second in line to the presidency.

It caps his spectacular downfall after just under nine months as Speaker, when the right-wing forces that he and other establishment Republicans harnessed to power their political victories ultimately rose up and ran him out.

“I will continue to recruit our country’s best and brightest to run for elected office,” McCarthy said in announcing his plans in the Journal. “The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders.”

McCarthy’s early exit, while not unexpected, creates a headache for his successor, Speaker Mike Johnson, who is struggling to run the House with a slim and dwindling majority.

Many lawmakers already have announced that  they will depart the House, citing historic dysfunction. And while many of those departing members have said they plan to serve out their current terms, those plans can often change quickly when job offers begin to materialize and a nice life outside of Congress comes into focus.

McCarthy’s imminent departure, which he announced just days before California’s December 8 filing deadline to run for re-election, will shrink the already slim Republican majority. The party’s margin in the House fell to three seats from four with the expulsion of Representative George Santos (R-New York) last week.

That leaves almost no wiggle room for Johnson, who is already dealing with a revolt from the far right for working with Democrats to keep the government funded and faces another pair of shutdown deadlines in mid-January and early February.

Governor Gavin Newsom, Democrat of California, will have 14 days after McCarthy’s final day to call a special election to fill the seat; and by state law, the election has to take place about four months later.

For McCarthy, who has struggled to adjust to life as a rank-and-file lawmaker, the early departure holds nothing but upside. Former members are banned for one year after leaving Congress from lobbying their former colleagues. By resigning this month, McCarthy can start the clock on that delay from what promises to be lucrative work in the private sector a year earlier than he would have been able to if he served out his term.

Research contact: @thehill