McCarthy 1st Valley rep in, out as House Speaker

Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy is first representative from the Central Valley to rise to top position in the House, but was ousted just nine months into his tenure as Speaker

Kevin McCarthy
United States Representative
Kevin McCarthy United States Representative
Serena Bettis
Published October 5, 2023  • 
11:00 am

CENTRAL VALLEY – A historic day in the nation’s capital had local ties to rural California as Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) became the first Central Valley representative to hold the Speaker’s gavel and subsequently lose it.

Eight Republicans in the House of Representatives, along with all 208 Democrats, voted to oust McCarthy Oct. 3, a first for any Speaker of the House. The move came after Florida’s far-right Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz made a motion — allowed by House rules negotiated when McCarthy was elected to the speakership — to vacate the Speaker’s chair. 

“I don’t regret standing up for choosing governing over grievance,” McCarthy said at a press conference in Washington, D.C. after the vote. “It is my responsibility; it is my job. … So I may have lost the vote today, but as I walk out of this chamber, I feel fortunate to have served the American people.”

After a struggle to assume the speakership through 15 rounds of voting in January, McCarthy held the position for just nine months. His election to the role was made more difficult by opposition from far-right Republicans who consistently voted “present” in January to draw out the vote for Speaker and demand a change to the rules of the House floor, which impacts how the House governs. 

In January, part of McCarthy’s work to become Speaker involved adopting a House rule that allowed just one person to propose a motion to vacate the Speaker’s chair. Previously, a majority of one party or a party leader had to bring up the motion to vacate. 

This rule change is what allowed Gaetz to file a motion to vacate the chair, ousting McCarthy from his role as Speaker. Further, because Republicans hold such a slim majority in the House — 221 Republicans to 212 Democrats, with two seats vacant — and Democrats also voted to remove him, just a few Republicans voting against him cost McCarthy the position. 

Republicans who voted against McCarthy said he failed the party as a leader and did not live up to the promises he made when vying for the Speaker position, including passing a budget with major spending cuts. The motion to vacate came after McCarthy worked with Democrats, including President Joe Biden, to pass a continuing resolution that extended the federal budget, avoiding a government shutdown. 

McCarthy currently represents California’s 20th district, which covers a large, winding section of the San Joaquin Valley, including portions of Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern counties. He was first elected to the House in the 2006 midterm elections and has represented the 20th, 22nd and 23rd districts as the designations have changed due to redistricting. 

McCarthy’s current district encompasses parts of Bakersfield and extends west toward Maricopa and south toward Rosamond. It extends east toward Ridgecrest and travels northward along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, branching out to the north edge of Tulare and south side of Visalia, going all the way west to Lemoore. It also covers Clovis and parts of Fresno County up to Millerton Lake. 

The first Speaker of the House from California’s Central Valley, McCarthy was just the second Speaker from California, preceded by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. He is also one of the only representatives from the Valley to have held leadership positions within the House. 

Throughout his time in office, McCarthy has been the minority leader, majority whip and majority leader. Before McCarthy, Democratic Reps. John J. McFall and Tony Coelho represented areas of the Valley and held House leadership positions. 

McFall was the house majority whip in the mid-1970s for California’s 15th and 14th districts, which at that time covered portions of the north Central Valley, between Sacramento and Merced. Coelho was likewise the house majority whip for the 15th district in the late 1980s, which then extended from Modesto to the south side of Fresno. 

McCarthy said he will not run for Speaker again.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter