Kevin McCarthy: Speaker to Citizen

McCarthy was dealt a losing hand at a tumultuous time in American history.

By Corey Kendig


Former House speaker Kevin McCarthy announced his retirement from Congress on December 6th. McCarthy’s announcement comes just two months after his removal from the speakership. The once revered political actor may seemingly have seen his last day in D.C.

McCarthy’s departure is surprising but also understandable. On one hand, McCarthy has spent seventeen years in the House of Representatives, double the average length of service in the House, but notably short for a member in leadership. On the other, McCarthy just lost a brutal election that ousted him from leadership; the first time a speaker has been ousted in such a manner.


The Departure

McCarthy’s departure is certainly a sad one. His removal from leadership was unpopular amongst Republicans in the legislature; he only lost because seven Republicans went rogue and voted to oust him as speaker. McCarthy however, is not sad about his departure. In his announcement, he touted that, under his leadership, Republicans won the house twice, reduced the deficit by two trillion dollars, and elected more Republican women, veterans, and minorities to Congress than ever before. California Republicans have praised him as a great leader, and as a great representative, but unfortunately his national legacy may be remembered differently.

McCarthy was dealt a losing hand at a tumultuous time in American history. McCarthy had to deal with representatives who never quite understood the “team-player” mentality of the Republican Party present throughout most of the 21st century. Gaetz, Boebert, and the other band of rogue Republicans made McCarthy’s leadership a living nightmare. 



The writing was on the wall as soon as Republicans took back the House in 2022. McCarthy’s election to the speakership spelled disaster, as it took an impressive fifteen ballots to elect the Congressman. Once again, the rogue Republicans threatened unity amongst Republicans by refusing to vote for McCarthy. 

Admittedly, I was wrong about the situation when I wrote that, “there is no immediate risk to the party, but come 2024 the house may see more Anti-McCarthyites elected to Congress, which will make this conversation a bit more interesting.” In my assessment, I underestimated the rogue Republicans’ distaste for McCarthy by a great deal. It’s hard to have “Anti-McCarthyites” without McCarthy.


Troubles Abound

Yet the election of McCarthy to speaker was not the truly contentious moment during McCarthy’s final months as speaker. The debt ceiling debate was supposed to be a key moment for Republicans to flex their political muscle over Senate Democrats and Joe Biden. But the flex became a whimper. In a total shocker, a similar group of rogue Republicans opposed resolutions proposed by McCarthy. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) vowed that McCarthy would pay for his initial attempt at the debt ceiling resolution. Roy stated, “no matter what happens, there is going to be a reckoning.”

At the time, it seemed as if it was an empty threat, but now Roy and his allies seem to have gotten everything they have wanted and more following the departure of McCarthy.


Looking Forward

McCarthy’s departure may spell more doom for House Republicans. The inexperienced speaker, Mike Johnson, will lose a valuable resource to his office. Johnson’s speakership is following a similar pattern to McCarthy’s as he struggles to gather his party into a cohesive unit. With the expulsion of Santos and the imminent departure of McCarthy, Johnson will need to rein in his co-workers more than ever. Rogue Republicans have ended McCarthy’s career as Speaker and may have subsequently ended Johnson’s as well.

Kevin McCarthy’s career in Congress is laudable and should be remembered fondly. His time during the Trump administration proved him as a crafty political actor who could solve politics’ toughest questions with ease. Unfortunately, he will most certainly be remembered for his fall from grace. The fallout to come should not be pinned on McCarthy, Johnson, or any other Republican in office other than those rogue Republicans who refused to trust a battle-tested political leader like Kevin McCarthy.


About the Author

Corey Kendig is a senior history and political science major from Marietta, Pennsylvania, and the head editor for Checkpoint News. He is the Executive Citations Editor at the Grove City Journal of Law & Public Policy. Corey is also a member of the American Enterprise Institute Collegiate Network.

Corey writes as a freelance journalist for several publications. He has written for notable organizations such as The Federalist, College Fix, and the James G. Martin Institute. He has interned at the United States House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania Family Institute. He is a Marketing Fellow with the Institute for Faith & Freedom.

Photo courtesy of Medill DC, Flickr (cropped). License here.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the writer alone. They do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grove City College, the Institute for Faith and Freedom, or their affiliates.


  1. Jon McGee on December 13, 2023 at 9:17 am

    Wow, what an insightful piece. I appreciate the author’s intricate understanding of the complex issues surrounding today’s Congress. Great piece!