Kevin McCarthy faces the press
Kevin McCarthy, one of the least powerful Speakers in modern history, faces the press (U.S. House of Representatives photo)

For­mer Speak­er Kevin McCarthy has decid­ed to quit the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives before the end of his cur­rent term, despite pre­vi­ous­ly hav­ing vowed to nev­er quit. McCarthy revealed his plans today in a guest essay pub­lished in The Wall Street Jour­nal. Like John Boehn­er, he has decid­ed not to stick around and will instead pur­sue oth­er endeav­ors, though he did­n’t say what those are.

“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,” McCarthy wrote.

” I nev­er could have imag­ined the jour­ney when I first threw my hat into the ring. I go know­ing I left it all on the field — as always, with a smile on my face,” he added. “And look­ing back, I wouldn’t have had it any oth­er way.”

His essay invoked Ronald Rea­gan’s name, but did not men­tion Don­ald Trump’s.

After the Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion, McCarthy threw his lot in with Trump, even mak­ing a pil­grim­age to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring.

But when it count­ed for McCarthy, that feal­ty was not rewarded.

Trump did not inter­vene to ensure that McCarthy would be elect­ed Speak­er on terms that would enable him to stay in pow­er, such as requir­ing a tra­di­tion­al thresh­old for a motion to vacate the chair. And Trump did not lift a fin­ger to help McCarthy after Matt Gaetz brought such a motion around nine months lat­er.

As report­ed by The Wash­ing­ton Post:

Dur­ing a phone call with McCarthy weeks after his his­toric Oct. 3 removal as House speak­er, Trump detailed the rea­sons he had declined to ask Rep. Matt Gaetz (R‑Fla.) and oth­er hard-right law­mak­ers to back off their cam­paign to oust the Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can from his lead­er­ship posi­tion, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the exchange who, like oth­ers, spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­close a pri­vate conversation.

Dur­ing the call, Trump lam­bast­ed McCarthy for not expung­ing his two impeach­ments and not endors­ing him in the 2024 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the conversation.

McCarthy is said to have respond­ed with an expletive.

And although he claims to be leav­ing with a smile on his face, it’s an open secret that McCarthy holds grudges and has been obsessed with try­ing to pun­ish those who were involved in his down­fall, espe­cial­ly Gaetz and Nan­cy Mace:

Since his ouster, he has tak­en a no-holds-barred approach to the peo­ple who facil­i­tat­ed his removal from lead­er­ship, unload­ing on indi­vid­ual law­mak­ers in pub­lic inter­views. McCarthy and his allies have at times used their pow­er and deep cof­fers to weed out Repub­li­can incum­bents who caused headaches in Wash­ing­ton, or were mis­aligned with McCarthy’s interests.

This month, McCarthy said in an inter­view with CNN that Gaetz should face con­se­quences for his actions and pre­dict­ed that Rep. Nan­cy Mace (R‑S.C.), one of the eight law­mak­ers who joined Gaetz, would lose reelec­tion for her “flip-flop­ping.”

Good rid­dance appears to be the preva­lent sen­ti­ment from Democ­rats upon hear­ing the news that McCarthy will be resign­ing from Congress.

“In his short time as speak­er, Kevin McCarthy man­aged to plunge the People’s House into chaos in the name of serv­ing one per­son and one per­son alone: Don­ald Trump. At every turn, Kevin sought to give his pup­pet mas­ter a life­line, even after the hor­rif­ic events of Jan­u­ary 6th, and spent his embar­rass­ing speak­er­ship bend­ing the knee to the most extreme fac­tions of the MAGA base,” said Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee Chair Jaime Harrison.

“This anti­cli­mac­tic end to Kevin’s polit­i­cal career is in line with the rest of his time on Capi­tol Hill – plagued by cow­ardice, incom­pe­tence, and feck­less­ness. Our coun­try will be bet­ter off with­out Kevin in office, but his failed tenure in the House should serve as a stark warn­ing to the coun­try about the future of the [Repub­li­can Par­ty] – no mat­ter how much he kow­towed to the extreme right, no mat­ter how much he kissed the ring, none of it was MAGA enough for the de fac­to leader of the Repub­li­can Par­ty, Don­ald Trump.”

Vacan­cies in the House can­not be filled by appoint­ment, so there will have to be a spe­cial elec­tion to choose a suc­ces­sor to McCarthy.

McCarthy cur­rent­ly rep­re­sents what is con­sid­ered a safe Repub­li­can dis­trict in the Bak­ers­field, Cal­i­for­nia area. Democ­rats will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to pick it up, but it will be very tough to win. How­ev­er, even if the seat remains in Repub­li­can hands, the new mem­ber will not have the senior­i­ty and clout in Con­gress that McCarthy did dur­ing his chaot­ic time atop the House Repub­li­can caucus.

McCarthy’s pre­de­ces­sor, fel­low Cal­i­forn­ian Nan­cy Pelosi, has cho­sen to remain in Con­gress and is referred to by oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers as Speak­er Emer­i­tus, a title we’re unlike­ly to hear bestowed upon McCarthy even by fel­low Republicans.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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