Kevin Owen McCarthy (born January 26, 1965) is an American congressman from Bakersfield, California . He serves in the United States House of Representatives for California's 23rd district and as the House Majority Leader . A Republican , he was formerly chairman of the California Young Republicans and the Young Republican National Federation . McCarthy worked as district director for U.S. Representative Bill Thomas , and in 2000 was elected as a trustee to the Kern Community College District . He then served in the California State Assembly from 2002 to 2006, the last two years as minority leader. When Thomas retired from the House of Representatives in 2006, McCarthy ran to succeed him and won the election. The 23rd district, numbered as the 22nd District from 2007 to 2013, is based in Bakersfield and includes large sections of Kern and Tulare counties as well as part of the Quartz Hill neighborhood in northwest Los Angeles County .

McCarthy was elected to House leadership as the Republican Chief Deputy Whip, from 2009 to 2011, and House Majority Whip, from 2011 until August 2014, when he was elected House Majority Leader to replace the outgoing Eric Cantor , who was defeated in his primary election . [2] After announcing his candidacy for Speaker on September 28, 2015, he dropped out of the race on October 8. [61]

Early life and education

McCarthy was born in Bakersfield, California, the son of Roberta Darlene (née Palladino; November 16, 1940-), [4] a homemaker , and Owen McCarthy (June 12, 1941-), [5] an assistant city fire chief. [6] [7] McCarthy is a fourth-generation resident of Kern County. He is the first Republican in his immediate family, as his parents were members of the Democratic Party . [8] [62] At the age of 19, he opened his first business, a delicatessen , after winning five thousand dollars with a lottery ticket . [10] He subsequently sold the deli to attend California State University, Bakersfield , [11] where he obtained a B.S. in marketing in 1989 and an M.B.A. in 1994. [11]

Early political career

In 1995, he was chairman of the California Young Republicans . From 1999 to 2001, he was chairman of the Young Republican National Federation . [62] From the late 1990s until 2000, he was district director for U.S. Representative Bill Thomas , who, at the time, chaired the House Ways and Means Committee . [11] McCarthy won his first election in 2000, as a Kern Community College District trustee. [11]

McCarthy was elected to the California State Assembly in 2002, becoming Republican floor leader during his freshman term in 2003. [11] He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2006. [11] [12]

U.S. House of Representatives



McCarthy entered the Republican primary for California's 22nd District after his former boss, Bill Thomas, [2] announced his retirement. He won the three-way Republican primary—the real contest in this heavily Republican district—with 85 percent of the vote. [2] He then won the general election with 70.7% of the vote. [2] [2]


McCarthy was unopposed for a second term. [2]


He was virtually unopposed, winning 98.8% of the vote, with opposition coming only from a write-in candidate . [2]


Redistricting before the 2012 election resulted in McCarthy's district being renumbered as the 23rd District. It became somewhat more compact, losing its share of the Central Coast while picking up large parts of Tulare County . This district was as heavily Republican as its predecessor, and McCarthy won a fourth term with 73.2% of the vote vs. 26.8% for independent, No Party Preference (NPP) opponent, Terry Phillips . [2]


In his bid for a fifth term, McCarthy faced a Democratic challenger for the first time since his initial run for the seat, Raul Garcia. However, McCarthy skated to reelection with 74.8% of the vote.


McCarthy won re-election to a sixth term in 2016 with 69.2% of the vote in the general election; the opposing candidate, Wendy Reed, Democratic Party candidate, received 30.8% of the vote.


Committee assignments

Party leadership

As a freshman congressman, McCarthy was appointed to the Republican steering committee. Republican leader John Boehner appointed him chairman 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, he was selected by the House Republican Conference to be the House majority whip in the 112th Congress . In this post, he was the third-ranking House Republican, behind House 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 (several after drinking) took part in a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee , including one member—Representative Kevin Yoder of Kansas—who swam nude . [69] 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." [69]

In 2012, McCarthy's office reported spending $99,000 on pastries, bottled water, and other food items, making him the highest-spending member of 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 representatives Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling would challenge him, both dropped out leaving a clear path for McCarthy to become House majority leader. [22] On June 13, representative Raul Labrador announced he would also seek the leadership position. On June 19, the Republican caucus elected McCarthy as majority leader. [25]

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 majority leadership 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. [26]

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. [27]

Speaker of the House candidacy and withdrawal

On September 25, 2015, John Boehner announced his intention to resign as Speaker effective October 30, 2015. Many media outlets speculated that McCarthy would likely replace him, and Boehner himself stated that McCarthy "would make an excellent speaker." He was the presumptive successor to the outgoing Speaker. On Monday, September 28, McCarthy formally announced his candidacy. [32] Having held congressional office for less than nine years, McCarthy would have been the Speaker with the least time in Congress since 1891.

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 added that he would remain on as Majority Leader. He reportedly had concluded that he did not have the 218 votes that would be required to be elected Speaker. [35] 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 stated that his comment did not specifically refer to McCarthy. [4] It was widely seen as referring to rumors that McCarthy had been committing an extramarital affair with fellow Representative, Renee Ellmers , a rumor that both have denied; the basis for such an allegation and interpretation is unclear. [4] [4] [4]

Comments on House Select Committee on Benghazi

In a September 29, 2015 interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity , McCarthy was asked what the Republicans had accomplished in Congress. He replied by talking about the House of Representatives' special panel investigation into the incident when Islamic militants attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi in 2012 . Republicans said the purpose of the government-funded committee was purely to investigate the deaths of four Americans. [4] 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.” [4] Many media outlets and Democratic lawmakers interpreted this comment as an admission that the investigation was a partisan political undertaking rather than a substantive inquiry. [4] [4] [4] [4] Some commentators described his remark as a classic “ Kinsley gaffe ,” defined as when a politician accidentally tells the truth. [5]

Several days later, McCarthy followed up on his comments and said that "Benghazi is not political. It was created for one purpose and one purpose only — to find the truth on behalf of the families of four dead Americans ... The integrity of Chairman Gowdy , the Committee and the work they've accomplished is beyond reproach. The serious questions Secretary Clinton faces are due entirely to her own decision to put classified information at risk and endanger our national security ... I've been very clear about this. And don't use politics to try to change this around. I could have been more clear in my description of what was going forward." [5]

Comments on Trump and Putin

On June 15, 2016, McCarthy told a group of Republicans, "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God." Paul Ryan reminded colleagues the meeting was off the record, saying "No leaks. This is how we know we're a real family here." [70] When a tape of the comment was made public in May 2017, McCarthy explained it as "a bad attempt at a joke". [5]

Political positions

McCarthy opposed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which added perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities as protected classes under existing federal hate crimes law. [5] He has voted against the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. [5] McCarthy was a supporter of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriage and banned same-sex couples from receiving federal spousal benefits; after President Barack Obama instructed the Justice Department not to defend the law in court, McCarthy supported House Republicans' legal defense of the law. [5] [5] When the DOMA case reached the Supreme Court in 2013, McCarthy joined Boehner and Eric Cantor in signing a brief urging the Court to uphold the law. [5]

McCarthy was an early supporter of Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries , saying that Trump's "intensity" could help the Republicans win House seats. [5] In 2017, McCarthy came under fire for avoiding meeting and town-halls events with constituents in his congressional district. [6] [6] [6]

McCarthy opposes the renewal of the charter of the Export-Import Bank of the United States , as he expects the private sector to take over the role. [6]

McCarthy is frequently at odds with environmental groups; the League of Conservation Voters has given him a lifetime score of 3%. [81] [6] McCarthy does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change . [83] [84] He was a major opponent of President Obama's Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas from coal-fired power plants . [84] [81] He has opposed regulations on methane leaks from fossil-fuel drilling facilities, characterizing them as "bureaucratic and unnecessary.'" [81] McCarthy opposes U.S.'s involvement in global efforts to combat climate change; as the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference began, McCarthy announced that he would oppose an international agreement on climate change . [6] [6] In 2017, McCarthy led House Republican efforts to use the Congressional Review Act to abrogate a number of environmental regulations promulgated during the Obama administration. [7] While McCarthy once supported the federal wind-energy production tax credit , he opposes its extension. [83]

In 2011, McCarthy was the primary author of the "Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act" (H.R. 1581), legislation that would strip 60 million acres of public lands of protected status. Under the legislation, protections for roadless and wilderness study areas would be eliminated, and vast swaths of land opened to new industrial development (such as logging, mineral extraction, and fossil fuel extraction). The bill was strongly criticized by conservationist groups and by former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt , who called it "the most radical, overreaching attempt to dismantle the architecture of our public land laws" that he had seen in his lifetime. [7]

In 2003, while minority leader in the state assembly, McCarthy "support[ed] most abortion rights , but oppose[d] spending tax dollars on abortions." [7] By 2015, however, McCarthy was a "staunch anti-abortion-rights advocate." [92] McCarthy is a supporter of the Hyde Amendment (a provision, annually renwed by Congress since 1976, that bans federal bans for abortion), and in 2011 co-sponsored a bill, the " No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act ," to make the Hyde Amendment permanent. [93] This bill was especially controversial because it provided an exemption for funding terminations of pregnancies caused by only "forcible rape," which prompted abortion-rights activists to call the bill a redefinition of rape. [93] McCarthy opposes a California state law that requires health insurance plans "to treat abortion coverage and maternity coverage neutrally and provide both," believing that this law violates the Weldon Amendment and other federal laws. [7] [7] [7] McCarthy received a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee , [7] and a 0% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America . [7]

McCarthy has voted to strip about $500 million in federal funding for Planned Parenthood . [92]

As House majority leader, McCarthy led efforts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). [98] [8] In March 2017, the House Republican repeal legislation, the American Health Care Act , was pulled from the floor minutes before a scheduled vote. Following changes made during an internal Republican debate, the bill narrowly passed the House, 217-213, in a May 2017 party-line vote. [98] [8] [101] The House Republican leadership's decision to told a vote on the legislation before receiving a budget-impact analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office was controversial. [101] [8] [8] The CBO subsequently issued a report estimating that the bill would cause 23 million Americans to lose health coverage, and would reduce the deficit by $119 billion over ten years. McCarthy and other House Republican leaders defended the legislation. [8]

Personal life

McCarthy and his wife Judy have two children. They are lifelong residents of Bakersfield. [11] He has been a board member for the Community Action Partnership of Kern. [8]

McCarthy's campaign for House speaker suffered from unproven rumors of an extramarital affair; such rumors, circulated by web posts and emails, were spread by various conservative writers and activists, including Charles C. Johnson , Matt K. Lewis , and Steve Baer . [105] [106] The spreading of the rumors was criticized by media critics Howard Kurtz , who called it a "a classic whispering campaign." [105]