Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Wednesday that he plans to retire from Congress at the end of the year after becoming the first speaker of the House in U.S. history to be ousted in October.

"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 wrote.

What You Need To Know

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Wednesday that he plans to retire from Congress at the end of the year after becoming the first speaker of the House in U.S. history to be ousted in October

  • McCarthy was removed from the speakership after a small cadre of dissatisfied, far-right Republicans — led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz — took advantage of a House rule to trigger a referendum on his leadership
  • McCarthy said in the op-ed that he will continue to help get Republicans elected

  • McCarthy assumed the speaker's gavel after 15 rounds of voting in January, the most needed to pick the House speaker since 1923
  • The California Republican had one of the shortest tenures as House speaker in U.S. history

But the House GOP's top fundraiser says he isn't going far.

"I will continue to recruit our country’s best and brightest to run for elected office. The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders," he added.

McCarthy was removed from the speakership after a small cadre of dissatisfied, far-right Republicans — led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz — took advantage of a House rule to trigger a referendum on his leadership. The motion to vacate, which succeeded by just six votes, was supported by eight Republicans and every present Democrat.

“McLeavin’,” Gaetz wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, after McCarthy’s announcement.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Georgia congresswoman who forged close ties with McCarthy, lamented his departure as the Republican majority grows even slimmer with his planned departure and the expulsion of former Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., last week.

“I can assure you Republican voters didn’t give us the majority to crash the ship,” Greene wrote on X. “Hopefully no one dies.”

McCarthy's tenure as speaker ended as chaotically as it began in January, when it took 15 rounds of voting to confirm him as speaker and only after much haggling with Republican holdouts, including Gaetz.

"He's had an amazing career. He is presided over as Republican leader electoral successes, cycle over cycle, culminating in the majority," North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry told Spectrum News in his first comments since McCarthy's announcement. McHenry, another retiring Republican, briefly replaced McCarthy as a temporary speaker while a new one was elected. "I hate this is how he was taken out. I don't think that's just I don't think it fits with his record of achievement. I don't think it's good for Republicans. I don't think it's good for the country."

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre offered President Joe Biden's best wishes to McCarthy and congratulated him "on a career of service."

"While they have important differences about policy, the president appreciates that they were able to work across the aisle on important priorities for the American people and he appreciates that Speaker McCarthy's story is an American one rising from a founding a small business to being the highest-ranking member of Congress," Jean-Pierre added.

McCarthy’s time in leadership was tumultuous and, at times, ineffectual. He closely aligned himself with former President Donald Trump, helping rehabilitate his reputation in the Republican Party after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and Trump’s efforts to stay in power by overturning the 2020 presidential election.

“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 6, and spent his embarrassing speakership bending the knee to the most extreme factions of the MAGA base," Democratic National Committee chair Jamie Harrison said in a statement. “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."    

Speculation had swirled in the weeks after his ouster whether he would stay on Capitol Hill with McCarthy telling the press he would stay and run for reelection, but then often backtracking saying he was taking his time to make a decision.

“I’m staying,” McCarthy told reporters on Oct. 6. 

It’s a decision his predecessors Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan made immediately after stepping down from the role. Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has stayed in Congress after handing over the reins to Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., earlier this year.

McCarthy has been representing parts of his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif., since he was elected to Congress. He was sworn into office in 2007, and though redistricting has changed the district a number of times, he has won handily each time. 

“As a son of a firefighter from Bakersfield. My story is the story of America. For me, every moment came with a great deal of devotion and responsibility,” McCarthy said in a video he posted to X. “Today, I am driven by the same purpose I felt when I arrived in Congress. But now it is time to pursue my passion in a new arena.”

McCarthy is a prolific fundraiser that raked in $15.3 million in the third quarter of 2023, and has raised more than any other Republican so far this cycle. His replacement, Speaker Mike Johnson, has been playing catch up after his shocking rise from a low-level member of GOP leadership to atop the chamber.

“It has been an honor to work alongside my friend Kevin McCarthy over the past several years. He is a dedicated public servant and a happy warrior, and we wouldn’t have a Republican House majority without him," Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. "While I’m sad to see him go, I wish him all the best in his next chapter.”

In his district, McCarthy was facing a challenge from his far-right in the form of small businessman David Giglio. Giglio’s biography on his campaign website lists him as the owner of CaliCards & More in Clovis, Calif. The website for the business shows it sells Topps and Pokémon cards, along with other collectables. 

“While Kevin McCarthy might be planning to leave Congress in body, he is still looking to wield power and influence behind the scenes through a handpicked successor,” Giglio said in a statement on Wednesday. “Despite all these failures, Kevin still intends to inject his hand-picked establishment-controlled successor into the race so can continue to exert his influence in the House and maintain the status quo.”

Since announcing his bid for congress, Giglio has called for McCarthy’s resignation in campaign fundraising emails as well as calling for House Republicans to censure McCarthy for not releasing footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.