Ex-US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he will leave Congress

Republican Kevin McCarthy, who won and lost the role of Speaker of the US House of Representatives in a tumultuous nine months this year, said in a Wall Street Journal column on Wednesday that he will leave Congress, bringing an end to his congressional career.

“I have decided to depart the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways,” McCarthy, 58, wrote.

The departure of the former party leader and campaign fundraising juggernaut, who helped Republicans take control of the House in 2022, could hamper party hopes of retaining the majority next year.

His move followed weeks of introspection as McCarthy considered the consequences for his California district and himself.

“It’s a gut call,” McCarthy said at a New York Times event on November 29. “I want to know that it’s the right thing to do.”

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy talks to reporters about the debt ceiling after the departure of White House negotiators, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 23, 2023 (credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)

McCarthy’s tenure was brief and stormy

McCarthy, who first entered Congress in 2007, spent the ensuing years rising through party leadership ranks in the House before beginning a brief but wild term as the top Republican in Congress.

He was replaced by Speaker Mike Johnson, a relative newcomer to the leadership, after weeks of Republican infighting in which three more seasoned candidates were nominated and then rejected.

McCarthy ran afoul of hardliners when he publicly said that former President Donald Trump bore responsibility for the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, days after the violence, though he later repeatedly voiced allegiance to the former president.

He also drew their ire earlier this year by striking a deal with President Joe Biden that averted a default on US debt and set a $1.59 trillion spending limit for fiscal 2024. Hardliners shuttered the House floor in days over the spending agreement but have since said they would accept it.

McCarthy was the first US House speaker to be ejected from the chair. But he will become the third Republican speaker, after John Boehner and Paul Ryan, to leave Congress following repeated clashes with the Republican hard right.

He launched an impeachment inquiry into Democratic President Joe Biden, focused on Biden’s son Hunter Biden’s business dealings, which Democrats have denounced as politically motivated and unsubstanitated by evidence.

McCarthy won reelection in 2022 by a 35-point margin and his California district is not seen as competitive by the three main non-partisan election forecasters.

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