WASHINGTON, Dec 6 (Reuters) – Ousted U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Wednesday he will leave Congress at the end of this year, a move that raised anxiety among his Republican colleagues about his path ahead. awaits its narrow and divided majority. .
His move came as Congress struggles to advance a series of critically important laws, including 2024 fiscal spending bills that Congress must adopt by Jan. 19 to avoid a partial government shutdown.
The task poses a new and dangerous test for McCarthy’s successor, House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Christian conservative with relatively little leadership experience who won the gavel after weeks of bitter Republican infighting.
“I have decided to leave the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways,” McCarthy, 58, wrote in a Wall Street Journal column.
“It often seems that the more Washington does, the worse America gets,” said McCarthy, who was dismissed as spokesperson by hardline Republicans in early October.
The departure of the former party leader and campaign fundraising giant, who helped Republicans take control of the House in 2022, could hamper the party’s hopes of retaining that majority next year.
While he represents a safe Republican district in California, his departure will further reduce the already slim 221-213 Republican majority early next year as Congress tries to avoid a partial government shutdown in mid-January.
Under California law, a special election must take place within 126 to 140 days from the time the state’s governor calls it.
McCarthy is the latest of several Republican departures from the House of Representatives that could reduce Republicans to just a one-seat margin to pass legislation by early 2024.
‘MAKE IT HARDER’
Rep. Mike Simpson, an establishment Republican, said McCarthy’s announcement “absolutely” underscored the difficulty of governing the Republican majority. He noted that McCarthy was ousted by eight hardliners representing less than 4% of the party conference, who voted with the Democrats.
“It’s going to be difficult for any president to satisfy everyone in Congress,” the Idaho Republican said.
“It could make it more difficult for President Johnson to try to maintain his majority,” Simpson added.
Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson said McCarthy’s departure underscores the party’s loss of strategic thinkers at a time when House Republicans need to reach a compromise with the Democratic-led Senate and White House.
“We don’t have enough mature strategic thinkers here … to the extent that we have fewer stars on the field. That’s going to hurt,” Johnson said.
McCarthy, who first entered Congress in 2007, spent the next few years rising through the ranks of the party’s leadership in the House before beginning a brief but wild tenure as the top Republican in Congress. He belonged to an emerging generation of Republicans known as “young people,” including former President Paul Ryan.
His tenure as president was marked by stormy relations with hardline Republicans, which forced him to endure 15 humiliating votes in the plenary session before receiving the gavel last January.
The intransigent ousted McCarthy on October 3 after he backed a bipartisan spending measure that averted a government shutdown.
Rep. Ken Buck, one of the eight Republicans who unseated McCarthy, called the impending departure “a good decision” for the former president and his family. “No, no, no,” Buck responded when asked if he regretted his vote.
McCarthy was replaced by Johnson after weeks of Republican infighting in which three more experienced candidates were nominated and then rejected.
He drew the ire of hardliners earlier this year by striking a deal with Democratic President Joe Biden that averted a U.S. debt default and set a $1.59 trillion spending cap for fiscal 2024. Hardliners shut down the House of Representatives for days over the spending deal, but have since said they would accept it.
McCarthy was the first speaker of the United States House of Representatives to be expelled from office. But he will become the third Republican president, after John Boehner and Ryan, to leave Congress after repeated clashes with the Republican far right.
McCarthy won re-election in 2022 by a 35-point margin, and his California district is not considered competitive by the three leading nonpartisan election forecasters.
Reporting by David Morgan; additional reporting by Moira Warburton; editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell, Jonathan Oatis, Cynthia Osterman and Daniel Wallis
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