California’s Kevin McCarthy resigns, 2 months after being fired as House speaker

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FILE - Si Rep.  Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to reporters hours after he was ousted as Speaker of the House, Tuesday, October 3, 2023, at the Capitol in Washington.  McCarthy said he is resigning his California congressional seat two months after his historic ouster as House speaker.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE – Si Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to reporters hours after he was ousted as Speaker of the House, Tuesday, October 3, 2023, at the Capitol in Washington. McCarthy said he is resigning his California congressional seat two months after his historic ouster as House speaker.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two months after his historic dismissal as House speaker, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy announced on Wednesday that he has resigned from his California congressmanship.

His announcement capped a dramatic end for the one-time deli 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.

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“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.

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.

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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.

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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 of 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 the trendy restaurants of San Francisco, farming and oil pumping shape the economy.