Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced his plans to retire from the House of Representatives at the end of 2023. This announcement comes after he lost the speakership in October, ending his tenure in a role he had only recently acquired.
McCarthy shared his decision in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, stating, “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 has represented the 20th Congressional District in California since 2006 and rose through the ranks of the GOP to become a significant figure in fundraising efforts.
Earlier this year, McCarthy won the speaker’s gavel in the 15th round of voting, but it came with strings attached. One of these was the reinstatement of a rule that allowed a single member to initiate a process leading to a no-confidence vote. This concession would later play a part in his downfall.
The beginning of the end for McCarthy started when Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed a “motion to vacate the chair” following the passage of a short-term spending bill designed to prevent a government shutdown. Joined by seven other Republicans and Democrats, Gaetz led a successful 216-210 vote that resulted in McCarthy’s removal from the speakership. The House, under Republican control, elected Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA) as its 56th speaker in late October, resolving weeks of deadlock.
Despite losing the speakership, McCarthy initially confirmed his intention to run for re-election and dismissed any thoughts of resigning, stating he had “a lot more work to do.” However, recent signals suggested that he was reconsidering his future.
In his Wednesday op-ed, McCarthy highlighted his achievements, such as aiding the Republicans in securing a majority in the House and passing multiple bills, including the spending legislation that ultimately led to his removal as speaker. He emphasized, “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’s departure follows similar announcements from several House members who have decided not to run for another term in the upcoming elections. Among them is Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC), a close ally of McCarthy and temporary House speaker during this fall’s leadership dispute.
McCarthy’s early retirement could further narrow the GOP’s majority in the House, which only consists of a few more members than the Democrats, especially after last week’s vote to expel Representative George Santos (R-NY). A special election to replace Santos is scheduled for mid-February, and another for McCarthy’s seat may soon follow.
Despite his impending retirement, McCarthy remains committed to the Republican Party’s growth, stating, “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.”
However, David Giglio, a businessman running for McCarthy’s seat under the “America First” banner, aligned with former President Donald Trump, warned on Wednesday that McCarthy might attempt to “wield power and influence behind the scenes through a handpicked successor.”