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Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Will Leave Congress at the End of the Month

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Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy stands at a lectern with a House of Representatives plaque on it.
U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from Bakersfield, speaks to reporters hours after being ousted as Speaker of the House, on Oct. 3, 2023, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Updated 9 a.m. Wednesday

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he will retire from the House of Representatives at the end of this year, departing before the end of his term.

McCarthy, a Republican from Bakersfield, announced his plans in an essay published in the Wall Street Journal.

“No matter the odds or personal cost, we did the right thing,” McCarthy wrote. “That may seem out of fashion in Washington these days, but delivering results for the American people is still celebrated across the country. It is in this spirit that 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 was removed as speaker earlier this year in a rare House vote. His ouster led to a three-week debacle that left the House unable to function as the Republican conference struggled to reach consensus on a new leader.

McCarthy’s departure shrinks Republican majority and could increase chances of a government shutdown

With McCarthy’s resignation and the recent ouster of New York Republican Rep. George Santos, Speaker Mike Johnson’s wafer-thin majority continues to shrink.

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After McCarthy’s departure, Republicans will have just a three-vote majority to pass key legislation, including two government funding deadlines.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Tuesday that the state will hold a special election to fill Santos’ seat on Feb. 13, 2024. California will also need to hold a special election to replace McCarthy, which could take weeks.

The vacancies put huge pressure on House leaders who were already struggling to pass partisan legislation, with key appropriations bills either failing or being pulled from consideration because of a lack of GOP support.

The fractious nature of the conference forced Johnson, after days of searching for an alternative, to rely on Democratic votes to keep the government funded through the new year — frustrating party hardliners and mirroring the decision that cost McCarthy his speakership.

Now, unless Republicans manage to overcome their so-far intractable differences, McCarthy’s departure could force Johnson to yet again rely on Democrats to advance must-pass legislation.

Congress must approve new spending authority twice in the coming months. The first deadline is just over six weeks away, on Jan. 19, when the first set of funding bills run out. The remaining spending bills run out on Feb. 2.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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