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Ousted US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to quit Congress

Kevin McCarthy talking to reporters after the motion to oust him from his leadership role was filed in October
Kevin McCarthy angered fellow Republicans when he passed a bipartisan spending agreement supported by the White House - J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP

Ousted US speaker Kevin McCarthy has announced that he will resign from Congress, leaving the Republicans’ already slim majority on a knife’s edge.

Mr McCarthy, who was elected to Congress in 2006 and whose latest two-year term had been scheduled to end in January 2025, said he would depart the House of Representatives at the end of this year.

The 58-year-old’s resignation will leave the Republican party with a slim 220-213 majority in the chamber.

Mr McCarthy’s announcement on Wednesday came days after George Santos, a scandal-plagued Republican representative from New York, was expelled from the House, just the sixth member to be thrown out since Congress began deliberating in 1789.

Two months ago, the California lawmaker became the first speaker to be ousted in the House’s 234-year history after he passed a bipartisan stopgap funding measure backed by the White House to avert a government shutdown.

Mr McCarthy’s removal was engineered by hardline members of his own party.

Announcing his resignation in a newspaper column on Wednesday, Mr McCarthy said he would remain involved in Republican politics.

‘Only getting started’

“I know my work is only getting started,” he said in the Wall Street Journal. “I will continue to recruit our country’s best and brightest to run for elected office.”

He added that he was proud of what he had accomplished during a 16-year career in Washington DC.

“No matter the odds, or personal cost, we did the right thing. That may seem out of fashion in Washington these days, but delivering results for the American people is still celebrated across the country,” Mr McCarthy said.

“It is in this spirit that I have decided to depart the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways.”

The move underscored what has been an astonishing fall from political fortune for the former speaker in recent months.

Mr McCarthy was elected as the 55th speaker in January after a gruelling 15 rounds of votes, and after having agreed to a number of concessions to a small group of hard-Right colleagues.

These included a provision allowing for a single member of the house to call for a vote of confidence in him.

Ran into problems

Hobbled from the start, and with a tiny majority, Mr McCarthy immediately ran into problems trying to balance tasks such as delivering and passing a budget, while placating hardline conservatives.

He was eventually forced out in October after rebels such as Matt Gaetz, of Florida, pushed for his removal.

The process to replace him took several weeks, with hopefuls such as Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan trying but failing to win a majority backing.

In October, after the intervention of Donald Trump, Mike Johnson, of Louisiana, was elected as speaker. He was among a number of Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s election win.

Mr McCarthy is among a number of politicians who have revealed plans to stand down in the near future. More than three dozen members of Congress have announced they will not seek re-election next year.

Mr McCarthy won re-election to California’s 20th congressional district last year by a 67-32 margin, and it is considered likely that Republicans will hold onto his seat.

Special elections will be held in California and New York to replace Mr McCarthy and Mr Santos.