Kevin McCarthy

First Remarks to the Press Following House Speakership Ouster

delivered 3 October 2023, Washington, D.C.

 

 

[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Good evening, all.

You know, President Abraham Lincoln once said, "I'm an optimist because I don't see any other way."1

If you ever come to my office you'll see the portraits of Lincoln and Reagan, and I firmly believe if Reagan gave his advice he would say, "If you believe your principles bring people greater freedom you should be happy about it."

I've always been -- I've always been excited that I've been a happy conservative. But I've always believed that I've been so fortunate to be an American.

My journey to this office was something people wouldn't understand. I grew up in a town of Bakersfield, California, the son of a firefighter, the grandson of immigrants. Parents worked hard; youngest in my family; didn't have great wealth and got out of high school -- I didn't have great grades; couldn't get a scholarship; went to Community College; flipped cars to try to pay my way through it; went to visit some buddies away in college for a weekend, stopped at the grocery store to cash a check and I won the lottery -- one of the first in California. It was before Biden economics. There was only 5,000 [dollars] but it went much further back then. Took my folks to dinner; put the majority of the rest of the money into the stock market and did pretty well.

The next semester I took a break from school. I went to buy a franchise but no one said they would sell me one -- I was only 20 years old. But I learned then never to give up. So I opened my own business selling sandwiches. Three things I learned: first to work, last to leave, last to be paid.

I wanted to finish my college degree -- at that time no one in my family had finished a four-year degree. I did pretty well. I now had enough money that I'd pay my way through school, as long as I went to Cal State.

So I sold my business. [While] going to school, I opened up the local paper and [it] said, "Be a summer intern in Washington, D.C." with my local congressman. I did not know this man but I thought he'd be lucky to have me so I applied. You know what he did? He turned me down. But you want to know the end of the story? I got elected to the seat I couldn't get an internship for.

I ended up being the 55th Speaker of the House. One of the greatest honors, I loved every minute.

And the one thing I will tell you is, doing the right thing isn't always easy but it is necessary.

I don't regret standing up for choosing governing over grievance. It is my responsibility; it is my job.

I do not regret negotiating. Our government is designed to find compromise.

I don't regret my efforts to build coalitions and find solutions. I was raised to solve problems, not create them.

So I may have lost a vote today but as I walk out of this chamber I feel fortunate to have served the American people. I leave the Speakership with a sense of pride, accomplishment and, yes, optimism. From the day I entered politics, my mission has always been to make tomorrow better than today. I fought for what I believe in and I believe in this country of America.

My goals have not changed. My ability to fight is just in a different form. You need 218 [votes to retain the House Speakership]. Unfortunately, four percent of our Conference can join all the Democrats and dictate who could be the Republican Speaker in this House. I don't think that rule is good for the Institution but apparently I'm the only one.

I believe I can continue to fight, maybe in a different manner: I will not run for speaker again. I'll have the [Republican] Conference pick somebody else. I hope you realize that every day I did the job. Regardless [of] whether you underestimated me or not, I wanted to do it with a smile.

I grew to enjoy you [the press] even on your toughest days and your questions. I could always tell what day it was based upon your question: Monday you would ask if I could pass the bill; Tuesday was whether the rule would pass; Wednesday was the greatest challenge ever to my Speakership; and Thursday, when we passed the bill, you didn't think it was a very big deal; and it all started again on Friday.

You know, I wouldn't change a thing. I do believe -- I got a new portrait in there too of Teddy Roosevelt. You all know "The Man in the Arena." One of my favorite parts of it,

...who errs, who comes up short again and again, but [because] there is no effort without error and shortcoming...who spends himself in a worthy cause...who...knows...the triumph of high achievement, and...if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.2

I always like to take a risk. Saturday, I took a risk for the American public. Regardless [of] what anybody says, no one knew whether that would pass. The Democrats didn't want that bill. Yes, they pulled a fire alarm. Yes, they do their conga line. Yes, they wanted to delay. But it was all for the American people.

I could not look the troops in the eye and say I would not pay them. For those who spoke on the floor, I thank them for their positive talks. I don't know what those who voted against and said there were some deal -- they were never a part of any deal. For those who said [spoke] about what we accomplished, I'm proud of what we accomplished -- from the Parents Bill of Rights to our Energy bill. But if they want to hold me liable because the Senate didn't take it up or the President didn't take it up -- that's politics, for what I know.

But the one thing I do know, this country is too great for small visions of those eight.3 To any child[ren] that are listening and who are coming to visit the capitol, this is a place I want you to visit. I liked opening the Capitol back up again. I liked taking away the metal detectors. I liked committees to being able to work [sic]. I liked people being able to visit. I hope you liked being able to be back in. I think it was important that -- that Members actually show up to work as well.

You know, to paraphrase Lou Gehrig, he said, "I might have been given a bad break" but I truly still "consider myself" to be "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth." There's no other country that you could rise to be the 55th Speaker, not get an internship, and be able to fight for the American public. So it was my greatest honor to be able to do it.

I loved my Conference well. I loved to be able to ability [sic]. I've been a part of the leadership team for quite some time. We won two majorities.

As leader, I'm proud of the fact we only gained races, only gained seats.

I'm proud of the fact, as the Republican leader, we elected more women; we elected more minorities; we expanded the base.

I'm proud of the fact that for the five years I [was] leader [through] two election cycles we gained five more seats in California, five more in New York. We won in places no one thought we could win.

The same thing -- you would underestimate me; you always said we'd lose. Each time around, we kept gaining. I intend to make sure that we gain and keep the majority in the next cycle as well.

With that, I look forward to your positive questions.


 1 Online attributions to Lincoln for this quote have it, "I am an optimist because I don't see the point in being anything else."

confirmation in process

2 Extended quotation: "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

3 Eight Republicans voted to oust McCarthy from the Speakship of the House

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