|55th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives|
|Assumed office |
January 7, 2023
|Preceded by||Nancy Pelosi|
|House Minority Leader|
January 3, 2019 – January 3, 2023
|Preceded by||Nancy Pelosi|
|Succeeded by||Hakeem Jeffries|
|Leader of the House Republican Conference|
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||Paul Ryan|
|House Majority Leader|
August 1, 2014 – January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||Eric Cantor|
|Succeeded by||Steny Hoyer|
|House Majority Whip|
January 3, 2011 – August 1, 2014
|Preceded by||Jim Clyburn|
|Succeeded by||Steve Scalise|
|House Republican Chief Deputy Whip|
January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2011
|Preceded by||Eric Cantor|
|Succeeded by||Peter Roskam|
|Member of the |
U.S. House of Representatives
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Bill Thomas|
|Constituency||22nd district (2007–2013)|
23rd district (2013–2023)
20th district (2023–present)
|Minority Leader of the California Assembly|
January 5, 2004 – April 17, 2006
|Preceded by||Dave Cox|
|Succeeded by||George Plescia|
|Member of the California State Assembly|
from the 32nd district
December 2, 2002 – November 30, 2006
|Preceded by||Roy Ashburn|
|Succeeded by||Jean Fuller|
Kevin Owen McCarthy
January 26, 1965
Bakersfield, California, U.S.
|Education||California State University, Bakersfield (BS, MBA)|
Kevin Owen McCarthy (born January 26, 1965) is an American politician who is the 55th and current speaker of the United States House of Representatives. A member of the Republican Party, McCarthy represents California's 20th congressional district.
Born in Bakersfield, California, McCarthy graduated from California State University, Bakersfield. He served as a member of the California State Assembly from 2002 to 2006, the same year he was first elected to the U.S. House. McCarthy served as the House Republican chief deputy whip from 2009 to 2011 and then as the House majority whip from 2011 to 2014. After House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's 2014 reelection loss in the Republican primary, McCarthy was elected majority leader, a position he retained until 2019, when he was elected minority leader. When Joe Biden won the 2020 U.S. presidential election, McCarthy supported Donald Trump's debunked claims of voter fraud and initially participated in efforts to overturn the results. After the U.S. Capitol was stormed during the 2021 electoral vote count, McCarthy reversed his previous comments on voter fraud in the election and blamed Trump for the riot. By 2022, he had publicly reconciled with Trump. McCarthy led the House Republicans through the 2022 elections, in which they gained a majority.
McCarthy was the Republican nominee for speaker in January 2023, but failed to win the speakership until the 15th ballot. As speaker, after a standoff between the McCarthy-led House Republican conference and the Biden administration, McCarthy and the Biden administration negotiated to resolve the 2023 debt-ceiling crisis and prevent what would have been a first-ever national default. To resolve the crisis, the parties negotiated the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, which passed with bipartisan support in Congress before Biden signed it into law.
McCarthy was born on January 26, 1965, in Bakersfield, California, the son of Roberta Darlene (née Palladino), a homemaker, and Owen McCarthy, an assistant city fire chief. McCarthy is a fourth-generation resident of Kern County. His maternal grandfather was an Italian immigrant, and his paternal grandfather was Irish. McCarthy is the first Republican in his immediate family, as his parents were members of the Democratic Party. He attended Bakersfield High School from 1979 to 1983, where he played on the football team.
In 1984, 19-year-old McCarthy ran his first business selling sandwiches out of the back of his uncle's yogurt shop on Stine Road.
He attended California State University, Bakersfield, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in marketing in 1989 and a Master of Business Administration in 1994. During college, he worked as a seasonal firefighter for the Kern County Fire Department.
McCarthy served on the staff of Congressman Bill Thomas from 1987 to 2002. In 1995, he chaired the California Young Republicans. From 1999 to 2001, he chaired the Young Republican National Federation. From the late 1990s until 2000, he was Thomas's district director. McCarthy won his first election in 2000, as a Kern Community College District trustee. Thomas has since criticized McCarthy in numerous interviews.
McCarthy was elected to the California State Assembly in 2002. He became the Republican floor leader in 2003. In 2006, McCarthy was first elected to the United States House of Representatives as a representative for California's 22nd district. He succeeded his former boss, Bill Thomas, who retired. The district, which was renumbered as the 23rd in 2013 and then 20th in 2023, has had various changes in location, but now covers the southern half of the San Joaquin Valley.
As a freshman congressman, McCarthy was appointed to the Republican Steering committee. Republican leader John Boehner appointed him chair of the Republican platform committee during the committee's meetings in Minneapolis in August 2008, which produced the Republican Party Platform for 2008. He was also one of the three founding members of the GOP Young Guns Program. After the 2008 elections, he was chosen as chief deputy minority whip, the highest-ranking appointed position in the House Republican Conference. His predecessor, Eric Cantor, was named minority whip.
On November 17, 2010, the House Republican Conference selected McCarthy to be the House majority whip in the 112th Congress. In this post, he was the third-ranking House Republican, behind Speaker John Boehner and majority leader Eric Cantor.
In August 2011, McCarthy and Cantor led a group of 30 Republican members of Congress to Israel, where some members took part in a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee, including one member—Kevin Yoder—who swam nude. When McCarthy and Cantor later found out about the swim, they were "furious" and worried about negative news coverage, and "called a members-only meeting the next morning to reprimand the group—both those who swam and those who abstained".
In 2012, McCarthy's office reported spending $99,000 on pastries, bottled water, and other food items, making him the highest-spending member of the House in this category.
Cantor lost the June 2014 primary for his seat in Congress, and announced he would step down from House leadership at the end of July. McCarthy sought to succeed Cantor, and after some speculation that Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling would challenge him, both dropped out, leaving McCarthy a clear path to become majority leader. On June 13, representative Raul Labrador announced he would also seek the leadership position. On June 19, the Republican Conference elected McCarthy majority leader.
According to the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, McCarthy is the least-tenured majority leader in the history of the House of Representatives. When he assumed the position in July 2014, he had served only seven years, six months and 29 days, the least experience of any floor leader in the House's history by more than a year.
McCarthy kept four of his predecessor's staff members on his staff when he took over as majority leader, including deputy chief of staff Neil Bradley, who now has served in that role for three majority leaders.
McCarthy has been under fire for avoiding meetings and town-hall events with constituents in his congressional district for years. His last town hall was in June 2010. He has opted for screened telephone calls since.
In December 2017, McCarthy voted for the House Republican tax legislation. After the vote, he asked his constituents to "Come February, check your check, because that will be the pay raise of the vote for Donald Trump."
On September 25, 2015, John Boehner decided to resign as speaker effective October 30, 2015. Many media outlets speculated that McCarthy would likely replace him, and Boehner himself said that McCarthy "would make an excellent speaker". On September 28, McCarthy formally announced his candidacy. Having held congressional office for less than nine years, McCarthy would have been the speaker with the least time in Congress since 1891.
In a September 29, 2015, interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity, McCarthy was asked what Republicans had accomplished in Congress. He replied by talking about the House of Representatives' special panel investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attack (in which Islamic militants attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya). Republicans said the purpose of the government-funded committee was purely to investigate the deaths of four Americans. But McCarthy said, "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought." The comment was seen as an admission that the investigation was a partisan political undertaking rather than a substantive inquiry. Some commentators described his remark as a classic "Kinsley gaffe" (defined as when a politician accidentally tells the truth). The remark was also described as "saying the quiet part loud". Several days later, McCarthy apologized for the remarks and said the Benghazi panel was not a political initiative.
On October 8, 2015, as Republicans were preparing to vote, McCarthy unexpectedly dropped out of the race, saying that Republicans needed a fresh face who could unite the caucus and "I am not that guy." He reportedly dropped out after concluding that he did not have the 218 votes that would be required to be elected speaker. McCarthy remained majority leader. The Benghazi gaffe contributed to his decision to withdraw from the race, as McCarthy acknowledged in announcing his withdrawal. Previously, Representative Walter B. Jones Jr. had sent a letter to the Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers stating that any candidates for a leadership position with "misdeeds" should withdraw from the race. Jones has said that his comment did not specifically refer to McCarthy.
After the Republicans lost their majority in the 2018 elections, McCarthy was elected Minority Leader, fending off a challenge to his right from Jim Jordan of Ohio, 159–43. While as majority leader he had been the second-ranking House Republican behind Ryan, as minority leader he was now the leader of the House Republicans.
McCarthy has been a strong supporter of Donald Trump since 2016. As minority leader, he remained a close Trump ally, keeping the Republican caucus unified in support of Trump and against his impeachment on two articles of impeachment arising from the Trump-Ukraine scandal. McCarthy associated with key figures in Trump's effort to enlist the Ukrainian government in discrediting Joe Biden, Trump's political opponent; such figures included Lev Parnas, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Robert F. Hyde.
Like Trump, McCarthy supported Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican candidate in 2020 for a U.S. House seat from northwest Georgia; Greene's past racist, anti-Semitic comments and her promotion of QAnon (a far-right conspiracy theory) led other Republicans to distance themselves from her. McCarthy did not take steps to thwart Greene's candidacy and did not endorse her opponent in the Republican primary runoff election. After Greene was nominated, McCarthy denounced the fringe conspiracy, saying, "There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party", and said that Greene had distanced herself from her earlier statements. In 2020, McCarthy was asked about Trump's false claims that Joe Scarborough (an MSNBC host and former Republican congressman) was linked to the death of a staff member; a few House Republicans criticized Trump for his use of inflammatory and false rhetoric, but McCarthy declined to take a position. McCarthy's predecessor, Bill Thomas, for whom McCarthy served as a staffer from 1987 through 2002, excoriated McCarthy for his failure to accept the result of the 2020 presidential election and unwillingness to fully confront Trump for his role in precipitating and maintaining the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
In May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, McCarthy and House Republicans filed a lawsuit to stop the House of Representatives from allowing remote proxy voting by representatives, a measure that had been introduced under Speaker Nancy Pelosi to prevent the virus's spread in the Capitol. McCarthy and the other plaintiffs claimed that a quorum of members had to be physically present in the chamber to conduct business; Pelosi defended the rule as a critical public health measure and pointed to the Constitution authorizing each chamber of Congress to establish its own procedural rules. In August 2020, a federal judge dismissed McCarthy's lawsuit against Pelosi, ruling that the House has "absolute immunity from civil suit" under the Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause.
In November 2020, in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, McCarthy falsely insisted on Laura Ingraham's television show that "President Trump won this election"—echoing Trump's own claim—even as vote-counting was ongoing in several states. McCarthy insinuated that large-scale voter fraud would lead Trump to lose, saying "Everyone who is listening: Do not be quiet. Do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes."
In December 2020, McCarthy was one of 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives to sign an amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit filed at the United States Supreme Court contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that called signing the amicus brief an act of "election subversion". The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, on the basis that Texas lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge the results of an election held by another state. In March 2021, McCarthy denied he had supported Trump's false claims of election fraud, even though he had supported Texas v. Pennsylvania.
On January 6, 2021, hours after the attack on the Capitol, McCarthy voted against certifying Biden's win in two states. Cook Political Report House editor Dave Wasserman later reported that McCarthy had told him on several occasions before this vote that he knew Biden had won. He later denied that this was a vote to overturn the election, because Biden would still have won without those two states. McCarthy finally recognized Biden as president-elect on January 8, more than two months after the election.
During a January 8 conference call with other House Republican leaders, McCarthy said that Trump's conduct during the Capitol riot was "atrocious and totally wrong" and that he was "inciting people" to attack the Capitol, and briefly inquired about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. On a January 10 conference call with Republican leaders, McCarthy said he would ask Trump to resign rather than go through a long impeachment battle, adding, "I've had it with this guy." During the same call he also expressed a wish that tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter would strip some Republican lawmakers of their social media accounts. But after weak House Republican support for Trump's second impeachment, fearing retribution from Trump and his allies, McCarthy backed off from this stance.
A week after the attack, McCarthy delivered a speech in which he held Trump partially responsible for the riots. He emphasized that Trump failed to intervene after the initial TV footage, showing the demonstration evolving in a violent assault. He later said that he did not believe Trump had provoked the mob. On January 28, McCarthy paid Trump a visit at his Mar-a-Lago residence. Officially the topic was said to be "regaining the lost votes in the midterm elections of 2022", but it was widely reported as an attempt to mend fences with Trump and lessen tensions in the Republican Party.
During the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler said that Trump said to McCarthy during the ongoing attack on the Capitol by rioters: "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." She was not called as a witness but her statement was included in the impeachment documents.
In April 2021, before closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial, Maxine Waters said, "I hope we're going to get a verdict that will say guilty, guilty, guilty. And if we don't, we cannot go away" and need to get "more confrontational". After her comments, McCarthy said, "Waters is inciting violence in Minneapolis just as she has incited it in the past. If Speaker Pelosi doesn't act against this dangerous rhetoric, I will bring action this week."
Because of her stance on the Capitol riot, her vote to impeach Trump and vocal opposition to his false stolen election narrative, in early 2021 pro-Trump Freedom Caucus House members attempted to remove Liz Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference, the third-ranking position in the Republican House leadership. The initial effort failed, but growing numbers of House Republicans supported her removal; McCarthy agreed to a party vote in May, resulting in Cheney's ouster. Hours after the vote, McCarthy said, "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election", but a CNN poll released days earlier found that 70% of Republicans did believe the false stolen election narrative. In October 2021, McCarthy pressured Republican political consultants not to work with Cheney or else lose business with other Republicans.
On May 18, 2021, McCarthy announced that he opposed the bipartisan agreement in the House to form an independent commission to investigate the Capitol attack. McCarthy had asked Representative John Katko, a member of his whip team, to negotiate with Democrats on the caucus's behalf about the commission. McCarthy specified to Katko what he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted, and got almost everything he asked for. McCarthy also said that the scope of any investigation should include other events of political violence, which was possible with the terms negotiated. McCarthy sided with other Republicans who sought to downplay the matter and move on. In June 2021, after Pelosi announced the creation of a select committee to investigate the Capitol attack that would include five Republican members, McCarthy threatened to remove Republicans from committee assignments if they participated.
In July 2021, the delta variant of the coronavirus prompted the Attending Physician of the United States Congress to reimpose a mask requirement in the House chamber. McCarthy called this "a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state", prompting Pelosi to respond to reporters, "he's such a moron." On July 31, 2021, members of Tennessee's Republican congressional delegation gave McCarthy a large gavel with the words "Fire Pelosi" inscribed on it. McCarthy told them, "it will be hard not to hit her with it, but I will bang it down."
In August 2021, after the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack asked telecommunications and social media companies to retain certain records, McCarthy said that if the companies "turn over private information" to the committee, they would be "in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States", and that a future Republican legislative majority would hold them "fully accountable". McCarthy did not specify which law the companies would break in this situation.
On November 18, 2021, and into the early morning of November 19, McCarthy gave a record-breaking 8.5-hour speech on the House floor using the "magic minute", forcing a delay in the final vote on the Build Back Better Act.
On May 12, 2022, the January 6 Committee subpoenaed McCarthy and Republican representatives Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Scott Perry and Andy Biggs. In December, the committee referred McCarthy, Jordan, Perry and Biggs to the House Ethics Committee for disobeying the subpoenas.
As minority leader, McCarthy led Republicans in the 2022 election cycle. Many party officials and political pundits predicted Republicans would make large gains in the House. In the elections, Republicans gained a majority, continuing the decades-long trend of the incumbent president's party losing a House majority in their midterm elections. This also marked the first time since the 115th Congress that Republicans held a majority. But Republicans did not fulfill widespread predictions of large gains, as their majority was narrow. McCarthy won an internal Republican conference vote in early November, with 188 votes to Andy Biggs's 31, but some members of the conference continued to oppose his bid for speaker.
At the start of the 118th Congress on January 3, 2023, McCarthy failed to secure a majority of votes cast on the first ballot, with all Democrats and 19 Republicans opposing him. This marked the first time since the December 1923 speaker election that the first ballot did not produce a speaker. McCarthy finally received a majority and became speaker on the 15th ballot on January 7, after making key concessions to some members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, including a rule to allow a single House member to introduce a vote to remove the speaker, as well as granting Freedom Caucus members three seats on the influential Rules Committee. Additionally, it was the longest multi-ballot speaker election since 1859.
In February 2023, McCarthy released over 40,000 hours of security video of the January 6 Capitol attack to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, prompting criticism from colleagues such as House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Days later, Carlson aired several minutes of the video during his program and asserted that government investigators had exaggerated the degree of criminality during the attack. Justice Department prosecutors said that in one case Carlson's video clips were misleadingly edited to suggest that one prominent Capitol intruder had been unjustly prosecuted, omitting video of him engaged in criminal activity.
In March 2023, McCarthy announced he had planned a meeting with the Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, in the U.S. He initially declined an invitation from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to visit Ukraine, saying he opposed giving "blank checks" to Ukraine and did not need to visit Ukraine to know whether the money was necessary. The planned meeting with Tsai was condemned by the Chinese Communist Party, which threatened to take strong action. McCarthy and Tsai met on April 5 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where he denounced China's threats. The meeting, which was described as a historic first, triggered a series of Chinese-operated military exercises near Taiwan, which the People's Liberation Army described as three-day "combat readiness patrols", meant to warn to the Taiwanese. On April 8, approximately eight Chinese warships and 42 fighter jets were detected near Taiwan's coasts.
In April 2023, McCarthy, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell invited South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol to address a joint meeting of Congress, scheduled for April 27.
In May 2023, amid a debt-ceiling crisis, McCarthy worked closely with President Biden to resolve the issue. Members of the Freedom Caucus attempted to persuade McCarthy to make more robust demands in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, but with days until a potentially disastrous default, McCarthy did not do so. He negotiated the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 that was introduced by Republican representative Patrick McHenry, and it passed the House on May 31 and the Senate on June 1. Biden signed it into law on June 3, ending the crisis and preventing a default.
McCarthy has urged Biden to withdraw the nomination of Julie Su as United States secretary of labor, arguing her controversial record would lead to "potential disastrous ramifications at the federal level".
McCarthy has expressed support for a proposal to "expunge" both of President Trump's impeachments.
McCarthy and his wife, Judy, have two children. They are lifelong residents of Bakersfield. He and his family are Baptists and members of the Southern Baptist Convention.
He is a former board member for the Community Action Partnership of Kern.
In October 2015, McCarthy was accused of having an affair with Representative Renee Ellmers. He had unexpectedly dropped out of the race for Speaker of the House shortly before the allegations surfaced. Days earlier, Representative Walter B. Jones Jr. had sent Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers a letter stating that any candidates for a leadership position with "misdeeds" should withdraw from the race. McCarthy and Ellmers have denied the allegation.
An October 2018 investigation documented how William "Bill" Wages, of McCarthy's brother-in-law's company Vortex Construction, has received $7.6 million since 2000 in no-bid and other prime federal contracts. The work was mostly for construction projects at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in McCarthy's Bakersfield-based district, and Naval Air Station Lemoore in California's Kings County.