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McCarthy calls it quits: Retiring from Congress After chaotic Speaker bid

By Jake Beardslee · December 6, 2023

In brief…

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy announces retirement from Congress at end of December
  • McCarthy served 16 years, rose to House Republican leadership including brief stint as Speaker
  • Was ousted as Speaker in October by members of his own party
  • Decision comes after ally Rep. Patrick McHenry also announced retirement
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy announces sudden retirement after tumultuous period as Speaker and subsequent ouster by his own party members.  United States Congress/Wikimedia

In a surprise move, House Republican Kevin McCarthy announced he will retire from Congress at the end of December instead of finishing his current term, which was set to end in January 2025.

“I have decided to depart the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways,” McCarthy said in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. “I know my work is only getting started.”

McCarthy has served as a Representative from California for 16 years, rising quickly to House Republican leadership positions including a short and turbulent stint as Speaker of the House. He was ousted from the speakership in October after members of the House Freedom Caucus initiated a rare procedural motion to remove him. It marked the first time in history a speaker had been removed by their own party.

McCarthy said his early departure will allow California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom to call a special election to fill his seat representing the state’s 20th district in the Central Valley. The fractious House Republican majority will narrow further without McCarthy just as they face major spending and foreign aid decisions.

McCarthy’s right-hand man and acting speaker during his October ouster, Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), also announced his retirement Tuesday signaling a major leadership change for House Republicans.

Over three dozen representatives have said they will not run for reelection in 2024 due to retirements or seeking other offices. McCarthy joins this wave after a tumultuous period for his party.

His opponent Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) initiated the historic procedural vote in October to remove McCarthy as speaker, claiming he had not fulfilled promises made during his lengthy speaker bid. It took Republicans three weeks to coalesce around a new pick — the relatively unknown Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.).