Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy to exit Congress, along with a flock of other lawmakers
Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks with members of the media in the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 30, 2023 in Washington, D.C. McCarthy, who was ousted as speaker on Oct. 3, announced his retirement on Dec. 6. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Former U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Wednesday joined the growing list of Congress members heading for the U.S. Capitol exits.
McCarthy’s planned departure by year’s end, following the expulsion of disgraced New York Republican Congressman George Santos, will leave the House GOP with a razor-thin majority in 2024.
The California Republican’s announcement also came one day after his ally Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina declared he will not seek reelection but will serve out the rest of his term.
McHenry served as Speaker Pro Tempore after McCarthy was ousted by eight House Republicans and all Democrats in early October.
GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who led the charge on McCarthy’s ouster, posted a one-word reaction on X Wednesday — “McLeavin,’” he wrote — seemingly playing on McCarthy’s name, his decision to retire and the 2007 teen comedy “Superbad,” which featured a character named McLovin.
McCarthy ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia issued a response on X criticizing hard-right members for pushing the former House leader out.
“Well. Now in 2024, we will have a 1 seat majority in the House of Representatives. Congratulations Freedom Caucus for one and 105 Rep who expel our own for the other,” Greene wrote. “I can assure you Republican voters didn’t give us the majority to crash the ship. Hopefully no one dies.”
The majority margin depends on which GOP members are present and voting during House floor votes.
‘You have a wave’
In addition to McCarthy and McHenry, nine House GOP members have announced retirement or decided to run for a different elected office.
Another, Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio, is planning to resign in March 2024 to take the job as president of Youngstown State University.
Sen. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, who previously represented his state in the U.S. House for 10 years, told reporters Wednesday that he doesn’t attribute the swell of retirement announcements to tension in the House.
“Every year, this time of the year you have a wave,” he said. “There’s gonna be another wave right before we come back from Christmas, too. So I don’t think it has anything to do with that. It’s just that people are re-thinking why they’re here.”
Across the aisle, 21 House Democrats will retire or run for a different elected position, and longtime Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins of New York plans to resign in February 2024.
Here’s a rundown of House Republicans who are leaving:
- Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, seeking retiring U.S. Sen. Mike Braun’s seat.
- Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina, running for North Carolina attorney general.
- Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, not seeking reelection in 2024.
- Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, not seeking reelection in 2024.
- Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, not seeking reelection in 2024.
- Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio, leaving Congress March 2024.
- Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona, not seeking reelection in 2024.
- Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, leaving Congress December 2023.
- Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, not seeking reelection in 2024.
- Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia, running for retiring U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s seat.
- Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, not seeking reelection in 2024.
- Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, not seeking reelection in 2024.
Several House Democrats are running for U.S. Senate, including:
- Ruben Gallego of Arizona
- Barbara Lee of California
- Katie Porter of California
- Adam Schiff of California
- Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware
- Elissa Slotkin of Michigan
- David Trone of Maryland
- Andy Kim of New Jersey
- Colin Allred of Texas
Virginia’s Rep. Abigail Spanberger announced a run for governor, while Rep. Jeff Jackson of North Carolina is running for his state’s attorney general position.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas is running for mayor of Houston.
Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota declared a long shot run for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.
Three House Democrats from California who have said they will not seek re-election are Tony Cárdenas, Anna Eshoo and Grace Napolitano.
Others stepping down include Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Dan Kildee of Michigan, Derek Kilmer of Washington, John Sarbanes of Maryland and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia.
The makeup of the U.S. Senate will change in 2025, leaving the majority hanging in the balance as Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Sherrod Brown of Ohio are expected to face tough races.
Manchin, of West Virginia, announced Nov. 9 that he would not seek reelection, potentially opening a path for the state’s Republican Gov. Jim Justice, who announced a Senate run in April.
Other Democratic mainstays who will not seek reelection include Maryland’s 80-year-old Ben Cardin who has served three terms; fourth-term, 76-year-old Tom Carper of Delaware; and 73-year-old Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, also in her fourth term.
Upon Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s death in September, Laphonza Butler filled California’s vacant Senate seat. Butler will not seek reelection.
GOP Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana and Mitt Romney of Utah have announced retirements.
–Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.
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