Rumors swirl about Kevin McCarthy's potential departure from Congress

 December 1, 2023

In the wake of his historic ouster from the House speaker's chair earlier this year, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is increasingly the subject of rumors that he is planning an imminent departure from the lower chamber, as Axios reports.

The outlet cited a number of Republican insiders who believe that McCarthy is poised to leave his congressional seat before the year is over.

A source who spoke to Axios said that McCarthy told donors he would like to “get the hell out,” a scenario which could place the already-slim Republican majority in even greater jeopardy.

McCarthy appeared at the New York Times DealBook Summit earlier this week and discussed the impending Dec. 8 California filing deadline for a potential reelection bid.

“I have another week or so to decide because if I decide to run again, I have to know in my heart I'm giving 110%,” the lawmaker explained.

The former speaker added, “I have to know that I want to do that. I also have to know if I'm going to walk away, that I'm going to be fine with walking away.”

“And so, I'm really taking this time now,” McCarthy stated.

Regarding the possible reasons for McCarthy's departure, should it occur, some insiders believe that he is not coping particularly well with the dramatic change of status he has experienced, going from the speaker of the House to just a regular congressman without a defined leadership role.

“The image in the rearview mirror is getting smaller by the day. I don't think he's having a good time being a regular Joe,” one fellow legislator said of the former speaker.

McCarthy has reportedly spoken in derisive terms about the cadre of fellow Republicans who helped secure his ouster from the speaker's job and has even been accused of initiating a physical altercation with Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), a member of the aforementioned group.

Certain of McCarthy's colleagues have suggested that he has been working to undermine those in his own party who sought to claim the speaker's gavel after his removal, with some describing him as “bitter” and “petty” in those attempts.

Addressing the possibility of McCarthy's potential exit, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said bitingly, “I suspect the former speaker will return to spend more time with the people he's always represented – on Wall Street and K Street. I don't imagine he'll be walking the streets of Bakersfield.”

If the rumors prove true, McCarthy's current attitude about remaining in Congress is a stark reversal from where he appeared to be as recently as October, with Reuters having reported at the time that he had no intention whatsoever of abandoning his seat in the wake of his ouster.

“No, I'm not resigning. I'm staying, so don't worry. We're going to keep the majority. I'm going to help the people I got here, and we're going to expand it,” McCarthy said, but with Friday's expulsion of Republican Rep. George Santos and fears that, should he resign in the new year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) could keep the seat open until the next election, that prediction may end up ringing quite hollow.