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Inside McCarthy’s farewell tour as he prepares to exit Congress

By Melanie Zanona, Lauren Fox and Haley Talbot, CNN

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy embarked on a farewell tour this week as he prepares to leave Congress at the end of this year, commemorating his 16-year career with floor speeches, a party and even a photo line.

After the vote series on Thursday – McCarthy’s last legislative day as a member of Congress – lawmakers held an hourlong special order of floor speeches dedicated to him, where members thanked the California Republican for his service and wished him well as McCarthy looked on.

In a speech of his own, McCarthy reflected on his time and touted his accomplishments.

“If you come across that question of whether you should do what is right out of fear of losing your job, do it anyways. Because it is the right thing to do and this is what the nation requires,” said McCarthy, who was ousted by members of his right flank for putting a stopgap spending bill on the floor.

Retiring GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a close McCarthy ally, touted his “unmatched knowledge of the personalities of the House” and compared his expertise to the “legislative equivalent of an elite power athlete.

Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who had a good working relationship with McCarthy when they both served in leadership, acknowledged, “We had many differences,” but he thanked the former speaker for the times they agreed: “It was good for the House, it was good for the country, it was good for me.”

“Kevin, I want to thank you for what we agreed upon and what we were able to do together here and abroad,” Hoyer added, referencing the many congressional delegations they led to Israel together.

GOP Rep. Ken Calvert of California concluded the hour of special order by saying they say goodbye to McCarthy “from the floor, but not from our lives.”

Earlier in the day, McCarthy arranged a photo line – which became a staple during his short tenure as speaker – so lawmakers and staff had a final opportunity to take a picture with him.

And last night, McCarthy was celebrated at a glitzy party at Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, where he was gifted a boxing robe and boxing gloves along with a plaque signed by his staff, according to GOP sources – a reference to the 15 rounds he went through to become speaker in January.

A source who was there last night said the new Speaker Mike Johnson came and was gracious about McCarthy.

“What was really cool is the speaker came and gave Kevin McCarthy credit for the majority,” the source said. “Kevin got up and said this majority is too important. Everybody go home for Christmas, enjoy your families, come back ready to work in January. Let’s not have revenge. Let’s work together for the majority and utilize this opportunity and support speaker Johnson.”

“Probably a better man than I would be,” the source added of McCarthy’s remarks. “That was powerful.”

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