Kevin McCarthy to leave Congress at the end of year


I was probably more surprised than many in this business when I saw the announcement of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s pending retirement at the end of the year. After the chaos of his exit from the Speakership, most of us didn’t see him sticking around for the long haul, but I honestly thought he would at least finish out the term. He didn’t initially offer any insight into what might be next for him, though he did say he planned to continue working inside the GOP system. So what made his exit so urgent? We may pick up a few hints from his initial statement, as reported earlier today in Politico.

“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.

The California Republican became the first speaker in history to get ejected from the position, thanks to eight GOP lawmakers who linked arms with House Democrats. Few expected him to stay in the House as a rank-and-file member for long. Still, McCarthy is expected to remain active in party affairs, including exacting revenge against the Republican critics who helped torpedo his short-lived speakership.

He confirmed he’d still be politically involved in the op-ed, writing that he plans to help recruit the “country’s best and brightest to run for elected office.” He also noted he is “committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders.”

I’ll just start by offering some credit where credit is due and thank Kevin McCarthy for his service. He’s been a reliable voice for the GOP from a very blue state (though in a solidly red district) and he made many significant contributions over his more than fifteen years in the House. He’s only 58 years old so he should clearly have some gas left in the tank if he wants to do something else.

Yet we’re still not answering the question of “why now.” I’ve pondered this for a while and I’m still unable to come up with a very flattering or even understandable answer beyond the one I really didn’t want to believe. If he had been suffering from health afflictions or experienced some tremendous loss in his personal life, I wouldn’t blame him. For that matter, if he had received some fantastic offer from the private sector that needed to be acted on immediately, I would similarly cut him some slack.

But none of that has been revealed to my knowledge. While it pains me to say it, this looks more than anything else like a simple case of sour grapes. McCarthy is angry over the way that he was ousted from the Speakership that he had coveted for so long, primarily engineered by some of the most conservative elements of his own party. I can’t say that I blame him because it was a chaotic procedure that accomplished little in terms of the conservative agenda and the Freedom Caucus bears as much blame as MeCarthy in all of this as far as I’m concerned.

In his parting statement, McCarthy said that he wants to “serve America in new ways.” But if he really wanted to serve America from a conservative perspective, further weakening the House GOP’s razor-thin majority at this moment clearly isn’t helping. He could have served far better by finishing his term and allowing the voters of his district to pick a replacement. Now Gavin Newsom will have the option of scheduling an election or leaving the seat vacant for all of next year, weakening the GOP voting block further. (Which do you suppose he will choose given the red nature of McCarthy’s district?)

This looks to me like an unsubtle message from the former Speaker. ‘You don’t want me to lead the majority? Fine. Then maybe you shouldn’t have the majority.’ As I said, I will thank McCarthy for his previous service, but not for the timing and manner of his exit. He’s doing no favors to anyone and I’m not sure who should be falling in line with his quest to “support the next generation of leaders.”

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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