House Republicans seem eager to exact revenge against Matt Gaetz, the far-right lawmaker who served as the public face of a group of GOP holdouts who opposed their party’s attempts to avert a shutdown this past week.
News outlets including CNN and Fox reported on Sunday that Republicans in the lower chamber are looking towards the conclusion of a House Ethics Committee probe into the Republican congressman from Florida in the hopes that the probe’s findings could warrant (or excuse) his expulsion from the chamber.
Since 2021, the committee has been probing a range of allegations against Mr Gaetz, a top ally of Donald Trump. Those allegations including claims that he violated sex trafficking laws, accepted a bribe, and used campaign funds for personal use. The Florida Republican has consistently denied those claims, and a Justice Department investigation into the congressman’s sex trafficking allegations ended without charges in February.
He responded to the reports on Sunday with a meme posted to his Twitter account.
The drastic nature of their intended punishment for Mr Gaetz underscores the animosity that now defines the House GOP conference. Republican lawmakers were quoted making personal attacks and snapping at each other during caucus meetings over the past week as their party sought, and ultimately failed, to come up with a short-term funding package that could pass the chamber solely with Republican votes. In the end, GOP leaders cut a deal with Democrats to pass a clean bill to fund the government, a measure which a majority of their own rank-and-file Republicans refused to support.
Now, Mr Gaetz is going for blood as he promises to bring a motion to oust Mr McCarthy as speaker of the House within days. In interviews on Sunday, he claimed to have many Republicans in support of this cause, though he conceded that the speaker would likely survive if he were to cut another deal with Democrats.
Some of those Democrats, especially progressives, are likely to demand significant concessions for their vote to save Mr McCarthy’s speakership. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent member of the House’s left wing, indicated as much during a CNN interview on Sunday.
“Would I cast that vote? Absolutely. Absolutely,” she said, adding: “[M]y vote at the beginning of this term for Speaker of the House was for Hakeem Jefferies, and I do not intend on voting for a Republican speaker of the House.”
“I think Kevin McCarthy is very weak speaker. He clearly has lost control of his caucus. He has brought the United States and millions of Americans to the brink waiting until the final hour to keep the government open and even then only issuing a 45-day extension. So we’re going to be right back in this place in November.”
She also responded on Twitter to the reports that Republicans are considering seeking Mr Gaetz’s expulsion, which she said was inconsistent with their refusal to do so with Rep George Santos, the disgraced New York congressman who now faces federal charges after being caught in a long list of lies including alleged acts of fraud. He denies any wrongdoing.
“The idea that Republicans would expel Gaetz over creating political headaches for themselves but not Santos over indictment on 13 Federal charges, including 7 counts of wire fraud and 2 counts of lying to Congress, seems wild,” she tweeted. “They’d be setting themselves up for the entire cycle.”
Mr McCarthy responded to the threat on CBS’s Face the Nation.
“I’ll survive,” he said dismissively. “Bring it on.”
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