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February 28, 2024
Apres Speakership, Then What? – Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie


The two most recent speakers of the House had two completely different reactions to losing their jobs.  After the Republicans regained control of the House in 2022, Nancy Pelosi decided to leave the Democratic leadership and give up what would have been the post of minority leader; she remains a member of Congress.  Her successor as speaker, California Republican Kevin McCarthy, lasted just ten months until his ouster, and announced on December 6th that he’ll quit Congress by the end of the year.

Here’s how previous House speakers, dating back to post-World War II, came to power, left their position, and left Congress:

SAM RAYBURN (D-TX)

Previous time as speaker:  1940-47 (Dems lost House in 1946); 1949-53 (Dems lost House in 1952); 1955 (Dems regained the House in 1954)-61.

End of speakership:  Died in office on Nov. 16, 1961.

JOE MARTIN (R-MA)

Previous time as speaker:  1947-49 (GOP lost House in 1948); 1953-55 (GOP lost House in 1954).

End of speakership:  January 1955

End of leadership:  Was minority leader until Jan. 6, 1959, when he was ousted by Charles Halleck (IN) 74-70.

End of congressional career:  Lost 1966 GOP primary to Margaret Heckler.

SAM RAYBURN (see above)

JOHN MCCORMACK (D-MA)

Became speaker:  As majority leader, he was elected in January 1962 to succeed the late Sam Rayburn.

End of speakership:  Did not seek re-election in 1970.

CARL ALBERT (D-OK)

Became speaker:  As majority leader, he was elected in January 1961 to succeed McCormack.

End of speakership:  Did not seek re-election in 1976.

TIP O’NEILL (D-MA)

Became speaker:  As majority leader, he was elected in January 1977 to succeed Albert.

End of speakership:  Did not seek re-election in 1986.

JIM WRIGHT (D-TX)

Became speaker:  As majority leader, he was elected in January 1987 to succeed O’Neill.

End of speakership:  Caught in an ethics scandal, he announced his resignation on May 31, 1989.  He was the first House speaker to resign due to scandal.

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End of congressional career:  One month later, on June 30th, he quit his House seat.

TOM FOLEY (D-WA)

Became speaker:  As majority leader, he was selected June 6, 1989, following Wright’s resignation.

End of speakership/congressional career:  Defeated for re-election in 1994 by George Nethercutt (R).  His speakership would have ended anyway, as the Republicans captured the House for the first time in 40 years.  Foley was the first speaker defeated by the voters at home since 1862.

NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA)

Became speaker:  He was minority whip when Republicans won control of the House in 1994.

End of speakership:  Under siege by his fellow Republicans for their worse-than-expected showing in the 1998 midterm elections — as well as his extra-marital affair as he was leading the impeachment of President Clinton and ethics questions in the kind of book deals that hurt Wright, Gingrich resigned as speaker three days after the elections.  The following day he announced he would quit his House seat.

DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL)

Became speaker:  Following Gingrich’s resignation and the sense that the more likely successors were politically damaged, Hastert, the chief deputy whip, became the GOP’s surprise pick for speaker and took office in January 1999.

End of speakership:  Republicans lost control of the House in the 2006 elections.  Hastert served as speaker longer than any Republican in history.

End of leadership:  One day after the elections, Hastert announced he would leave the leadership and not become minority leader.

End of congressional career:  Re-elected by his Illinois constituents in 2006, he announced his resignation from Congress on November 26, 2007.

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA)

Became speaker:  She was minority leader when the Democrats won control of the House in 2006, making her speaker, the first woman in history to do so.

Out/in/out as speaker:  She became minority leader when the Democrats lost the House in 2010.  After her party regained the majority in 2018, she became the first to regain the speakership since Rayburn in 1955.  Ten days after the Democrats lost the majority in 2022, she announced she would not seek to remain in the leadership.  She remains in Congress.

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JOHN BOEHNER:

Became speaker:  As majority leader, the Republicans captured the House in 2010.

End of speakership/congressional career:  Under attack by his party’s right wing for his role in trying to fund the government and keep it open, Boehner announced he would step down on September 25, 2015 and resign from Congress at the end of October.

PAUL RYAN (R-WI)

Became speaker:  His party’s nominee for vice president in 2012, Ryan, chairman of the Ways & Means Cmte, was chosen as speaker following Boehner’s resignation on Oct. 29, 2015.

End of speakership/congressional career:  He announced on April 11, 2018 that he would not seek re-election, a year when the Democrats regained the majority.

NANCY PELOSI (see above)

KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA)

Became speaker:  After an unprecedented 15 rounds of balloting on Jan. 7, 2023, two months after the GOP regained control of the House after four years.

End of speakership:  McCarthy’s role in avoiding a government default and his willingness to work with Democrats to accomplish that led to anger from conservatives, who filed a “motion to vacate” the speakership.  The motion passed 216-210 on Oct. 3, 2023, the first time in history a speaker was removed by the House.

End of congressional career:  McCarthy announced on Oct. 3rd that he would resign his seat by the end of the year.

MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA)

Became speaker:  After three Republican nominees for speaker failed to reach a majority, Johnson, a complete dark horse, was selected on Oct. 24, 2023.  First elected to Congress in 2016, he had the shortest tenure of any speaker since John Carlisle in 1883.

As the Devolder Turns:  The special election to succeed Rep. George Santos (R-NY) will take place on Feb. 13, 2024.  The Republicans have nominated Mazi Pilip, a Nassau County legislator born in Ethiopia and a registered Democrat, who served as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces and who is a blank slate when it comes to positions on issues.  Democrats settled on Tom Suozzi, who was first elected to the congressional seat in 2016, beat Santos 56-43% in 2020, and then gave it up to run for governor in 2022, challenging Kathy Hochul, who became governor following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, in a very ugly and personal primary campaign, with bitterness between Suozzi and Hochul apparently still continuing.  (Was that not the longest run-on sentence in history?)  Biden carried the district by eight points, but Suozzi has had an uneasy relationship over the years with progressives, who feel he is not strong enough on abortion rights.  The race is considered a tossup and will be nationally watched.

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Next live radio program:  Jan. 4th, WOSU’s “All Sides with Anna Staver,” a full hour from 10-11am Eastern.

LATEST PODCAST: “Farewell to the Trailblazers” (Episode #406), Dec. 6.

ON THE CALENDAR:

January 10 — Republican presidential debate, CNN, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

January 15 — Iowa presidential caucuses.

January 23 — New Hampshire presidential primary.

February 3 — South Carolina Democratic presidential primary.

February 6 — Nevada Democratic presidential primary.

February 8 — Nevada Republican presidential caucuses.

February 13 — Special election in New York 03, following the resignation of Rep. George Santos (R).

February 24 — South Carolina Republican presidential primary.

February 27 — Michigan presidential primary.

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This Day In Political History:  The Senate confirms Ohio Sen. William Saxbe as President Nixon’s attorney general by a vote of 75-10.  Saxbe replaces Elliot Richardson, who was fired by Nixon during the “Saturday Night Massacre” on Oct. 20th (Dec. 17, 1973).

Got a question?  Ask Ken Rudin: [email protected]

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