(WASHINGTON) — Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted from his role by a faction of his own party earlier this year, will resign from Congress at the end of the month, he said on Wednesday.
“I have decided to depart the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways,” McCarthy wrote in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal. “I know my work is only getting started.”
The announcement caps off McCarthy’s fall from GOP leadership after rising to the speakership in a historic 15-round vote earlier this year. Speculation over McCarthy’s future spiked after a band of eight Republican backbenchers engineered his historic ouster less than two months ago over personal and policy disputes. After his defeat, he sent conflicting messages over whether or not he would seek reelection, serve out the rest of his term set to end in January 2025 or leave the House early.
McCarthy insisted Wednesday that he’ll remain involved, helping recruit and fundraise for House Republican candidates — exercising one of his greatest strengths as a House leader.
“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,” he wrote in The Journal.
Still, his departure will again diminish the power of one of his party’s strongest fundraisers.
“Kevin McCarthy’s contributions to our country and to growing the House Republican majority are unparalleled. A razor-sharp political mind, Kevin personally raised hundreds of millions of dollars and recruited hundreds of diverse candidates that led us from deep in the minority to the majority. This devotion to building our party is born from a strong love of country and a heart for service that motivates Kevin at his core,” said Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., who chairs House Republicans’ campaign arm.
More immediately, his departure from Congress will shrink Republicans’ already slim margin, which shrank after former Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., was expelled from the House last week in the wake of a scathing ethics report and a slew of federal charges. Santos has pleaded not guilty and defended himself.
Speaker Mike Johnson will only be able to lose three GOP votes on each measure before falling below a simple majority.
Johnson downplayed the impact of McCarthy’s upcoming resignation, dismissing concerns that the former speaker’s looming exit weakens the GOP majority.
Asked by ABC News whether McCarthy’s resignation will have any adverse impact on his ability to run the House, Johnson said it wouldn’t.
“No,” Johnson said. “We’re going to keep moving forward and I’m optimistic about that.”
Johnson said he isn’t concerned about losing McCarthy’s vote and the potential that it could make it harder to pass votes.
“Our conference is working well together. And I’m confident in that,” Johnson said.
Johnson praised McCarthy for his leadership in a post on X Wednesday. He said McCarthy and his wife Judy “have served faithfully and sacrificed substantially for the good of our country and our cause.” Johnson told ABC News he is “sad to see [McCarthy] go.”
One of McCarthy’s rivals, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who brought the so-called motion to vacate McCarthy as speaker, celebrated the California congressman’s upcoming departure in a one-word post on X: “McLeavin’.”
President Joe Biden “appreciates” the work he did alongside McCarthy despite their differences, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.
“The president wishes Speaker McCarthy well and congratulates him on a career of service. While they have important differences about policy, the president appreciates that they were able to work across the aisle on important priorities for the American people,” Jean-Pierre said in the White House press briefing.
McCarthy’s announcement before California’s Dec. 8 campaign filing deadline is likely to open the floodgates for candidates to run for his ruby red congressional district, which includes a large part of the state’s Central Valley. California Gov. Gavin Newsom will have to call a special election to replace McCarthy.
McCarthy is the third lawmaker who will resign from the 118th Congress rather than serve out the full two-year term. He joins Democrat Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Republican Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah, who both resigned earlier this year.
McCarthy’s resignation ends his 16-year career in the House. He was first elected to Congress in 2006 and about four years later was elected to majority whip. He served as majority leader and House Republican leader before his historic rise to the speakership earlier this year.
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