Sunday, February 25, 2024

GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California resigned, 2 months after his ouster as House speaker

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two months after his historic dismissal as House speaker, Republican Rep. California’s Kevin McCarthy announced Wednesday that he is resigning his congressional seat and will leave at the end of the year.

His announcement marked the dramatic end to the House career of the one-time deli counter owner from Bakersfield, who rose through state and national politics to become second in line for the presidency before a contingent of hard-right conservatives engineered his removal in October.

McCarthy is the only speaker in history to be voted out of office.

“Regardless of the difficulties, or personal costs, we did the right thing,” McCarthy wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, announcing his decision.

“It is in this spirit that I have decided to leave the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways,” he wrote.

An announcement on McCarthy’s future is expected, days before the deadline to file for re-election. But his decision went down on Capitol Hill, where his departure will leave the paper-thin House GOP majority even tighter, with few seats remaining.

It comes amid a wave of retirements in the House, which has been divided by Republican infighting, and the unusual ousting last week of impeached GOP Rep. George Santos in New York, dense hopes for great achievements and left many struggling to conduct the basic business of management.

McCarthy carried the Republicans to a majority but found it more difficult to lead the hard-edged factions of the GOP.

His fall from the chamber’s top post was sparked by complaints from the hard-right wing of his party, including his decision to work with Democrats to keep the federal government open rather than risk a shutdown.

McCarthy, 58, arrived in the House in January 2007 after a stint in the California Assembly, where he served as minority leader. In Congress, he maneuvered his party’s hierarchy — serving as majority whip and Republican leader along the way — before being elected speaker in January 2023.

The day-long battle on the floor that preceded his ascension to the top job in the House foreshadowed a stormy administration, at a time when former President Donald Trump remains the party’s de facto leader and the deep divisions within the GOP raise serious questions about the party’s ability to govern.

It took a record 15 votes over four days for McCarthy to line up the support he needed to win the position he had long sought, ultimately prevailing by a 216-212 vote with Democrats backing the leader. Hakeem Jeffries and six Republican holdouts voted. Not since the Civil War has a vote for speaker dragged through so many rounds of counting.

McCarthy emerged from the fight weak, especially considering that the Republicans held only a weak margin in the chamber after a predicted “red wave” failed to materialize in the 2022 elections.

Once installed as speaker, his well-known knack for fundraising and political glad-handing seemed unsuited to corralling his party’s arguably hard-right faction. And the deals he cut to become speaker — including a change in rules that allowed any lawmaker to submit a motion to remove him — left him vulnerable.

When he became speaker, “he faced new challenges that required a different skill set,” said Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney, a one-time analyst at domestic policy for House Republicans. And “the compromises he made to become a speaker made it almost impossible for him to succeed as a speaker.”

McCarthy, the son of a firefighter and a homemaker, has long described himself as a relentless fighter. He likes to quote his father, who told him, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

McCarthy hails from Bakersfield, a Republican-leaning area of ​​Central California where oil derricks blanket the hillsides and country music fans pack the halls of Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace. Far from the beaches of Southern California and tony restaurants of San Francisco, farming and oil pumping shape the economy.

Michael R. Blood, The Associated Press

World Nation News Desk
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