Two months after his historic ouster as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy announced Wednesday that he is resigning his congressional seat in California and will leave it at the end of the year.

His announcement capped a surprising end for the former deli owner from Bakersfield, California, who rose through state and national politics to become the runner-up to the presidency before a group of far-right conservatives engineered his ouster in October.

McCarthy is the only speaker in history to be voted out.

“Regardless of the odds or personal cost, we did the right thing,” McCarthy wrote in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal announcing his decision.

“With that in mind, I have decided to leave the House of Representatives at the end of this year to serve America in new ways,” he wrote.

An announcement on McCarthy’s future had been expected just days before the re-election filing deadline. But his decision backfired on Capitol Hill, where his departure will make the House’s already razor-thin GOP majority even narrower, with just a few seats left.

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This comes during a wave of resignations in the House rocked by Republican infighting and the rare expulsion of George Santos last week, dashing hopes of major gains and leaving the majority struggling to carry out the basic functions of government .

McCarthy had brought the Republicans into the majority, but found it much more difficult to lead the stubborn Republican factions.

His ouster from the chamber’s top job was fueled by complaints from his party’s far-right flank, including over his decision to work with Democrats to keep the federal government open rather than risk a shutdown.

McCarthy, 58, came to the House of Representatives in January 2007 after serving as minority leader in the California Assembly. In Congress, he maneuvered his way through his party’s hierarchy, serving as majority leader and Republican leader before being elected speaker in January 2023.

The days-long campaign that preceded his nomination to the top House post heralded a stormy term at a time when former President Donald Trump remained the party’s de facto leader and deep divisions within the Republican Party raised serious questions about the effectiveness of the House party posed to govern.

It took a record 15 votes in four days for McCarthy to muster the support he needed to win the post he had long coveted, ultimately prevailing by a vote of 216 to 212, with Democrats leading Hakeem Jeffries supported and six Republican objectors were present. Not since the time of the Civil War has a speaker’s vote made it through so many rounds of counting.

McCarthy emerged from the fight weakened, especially given Republicans’ fragile lead in the chamber after a predicted “red wave” failed to materialize in the 2022 election.

Challenges in the role

After his appointment as speaker, his well-known flair for fundraising and political joviality seemed ill-suited to bringing his party’s controversial far-right faction under control. And deals he made to become speaker — including a rule change that allowed any individual lawmaker to petition for his recall — left him vulnerable.

When he became speaker, “he faced new challenges that required different skills,” said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College and a former House Republican domestic policy analyst.

And “the deals 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 housewife, has long described himself as a tireless fighter.

He likes to quote his father, who told him, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

VIEW | McCarthy ousted as speaker:

Kevin McCarthy was removed as Speaker of the House of Representatives

Republican Kevin McCarthy was ousted as House Speaker in an extraordinary showdown. Those who voted him out include Democrats and members of his own party.

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