Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the former House Speaker who was ousted from the position by members of his own party, announced on Wednesday that he will resign from Congress at the end of the year.
“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 in the Wall Street Journal. “I know my work is only getting started.”
His announcement will leave the House GOP with an even slimmer majority—they already hold only an eight seat majority in the chamber—until a special election can be held to fill his vacated seat. Many in Washington expected McCarthy to leave Congress following a historic vote in October when a group of conservative hardliners successfully kicked him out of his leadership position for the first time in U.S. history, leaving the California Republican in an uncomfortable position within his conference. The move signaled a major shift in the dynamics of the House GOP and highlighted deep divisions within the party.
“I will continue to recruit our country’s best and brightest to run for elected office,” McCarthy wrote. “The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders.”
McCarthy's departure marks a significant turn from his earlier statements, where he had asserted his intention to remain in Congress. The former Speaker, who first entered Congress in 2007, swiftly ascended the leadership ladder, overcoming an unsuccessful bid for the gavel in 2015. Known for his prolific fundraising, McCarthy’s tumultuous journey culminated in his appointment as House minority leader and later as speaker after a contentious 15-round vote.
The catalyst for McCarthy's ouster was the assertion by eight conservative hardliners—led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz—that he had violated their agreement made during the initial speaker race. They accused McCarthy of breaching the terms by supporting a clean stop-gap spending bill, prompting a motion to vacate. Democrats backed the motion, adding to the pressure on the embattled Republican leader.
Tensions between McCarthy and his critics have been palpable since the motion to vacate, with some members expressing dissatisfaction over his handling of the speaker's race to replace him. The sympathy McCarthy initially garnered following his leadership ouster began to wane, further exacerbating the divisions within the GOP. He was succeeded as House Speaker by Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana.
McCarthy has repeatedly targeted the eight Republicans who voted against him, leading to speculation that he may intervene in primaries and elections to unseat them. McCarthy's resignation comes against the backdrop of a growing exodus among Republican lawmakers. Over the past months, almost a dozen House GOP members have declared their intentions to retire from office at the conclusion of their terms, including his longtime ally Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, whom McCarthy tapped to serve as speaker pro tempore after he lost his position.
Some retiring members pointed to a distaste for the political climate in Washington as a factor influencing their decisions. The sentiment echoes a broader trend in recent years, where lawmakers have increasingly cited frustration with the polarized and gridlocked nature of Capitol Hill as a significant motivator for stepping away from public office. McHenry on Tuesday said he's “confident” in the House’s future, despite the upheaval after McCarthy's removal.
McCarthy struck a similar tone in his announcement, declaring himself an “optimist.”
“No matter the odds, or personal cost, we did the right thing,” he wrote. “That may seem out of fashion in Washington these days, but delivering results for the American people is still celebrated across the country.”
More Must-Reads From TIME
- Meet the 2024 Women of the Year
- Greta Gerwig's Next Big Swing
- East Palestine, One Year After Train Derailment
- In the Belly of MrBeast
- The Closers: 18 People Working to End the Racial Wealth Gap
- How Long Should You Isolate With COVID-19?
- The Best Romantic Comedies to Watch on Netflix
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time
Write to Nik Popli at email@example.com