Matt Gaetz denies House speaker turmoil may hinder response to Israel

Mr Gaetz blamed the lack of a new speaker on interim Speaker Patrick McHenry, who sent members home rather than calling a vote on a new speaker immediately after Kevin McCarthy’s ousting

Kelly Rissman
Monday 09 October 2023 11:59 EDT
Matt Gaetz denies House speaker turmoil is hampering US response to Israel

Florida Rep Matt Gaetz has dismissed concerns that the House’s current lack of leadership could hinder the US’s ability to send aid to Israel, insisting “there is no ask from Israel that we are unable to meet”.

The Republican was pressed by host Kristen Welker on the matter as he appeared on “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“Congressman, you say that you stand with Israel, you’re ready to defend Israel and yet you’re completely incapable of helping Israel because you’ve brought Congress to a standstill, a state of paralysis, have you not?” she asked.

Mr Gaetz – who introduced the motion to vacate Kevin McCarthy, leading to a historic vote that resulted in his ousting as speaker – replied that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had “reject[ed] that premise”.

Ms Welker pushed back saying: “He didn’t reject it, Congressman. He called Congress to get back to work.”

Mr Blinken had also appeaed on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, where he said that “it would be very important to make sure that we have both houses of Congress, on a bipartisan basis, in a place where they can clearly show and express their support for Israel, especially in this hour of need”.

He added: “And so that’s something we want to see, and we hope that that happens quickly.”

Mr Blinken went on to say that there is a “tremendous amount of aid and assistance already in the pipeline,” explaining that “under President Obama, we signed a so-called memorandum of understanding with Israel that provides it with $3.8bn a year in defense assistance, and much of that is ongoing”.

Speaking to Ms Welker, Mr Gaetz expanded on this, claiming that “the reason we have this multibillion-dollar commitment each and every year to Israel is because we want Israel to have a qualitative military edge over everyone in the region. They have that edge”.

“I’m very concerned about what Hezbollah might do, what Lebanon might do there to try to create more instability,” the Florida Republican added, underscoring” “But there is no ask from Israel that we are unable to meet because it’s going to take us a few days to pick a new speaker.”

He then blamed interim Speaker Patrick McHenry for sending members home rather than voting on a new speaker immediately in the wake of Mr McCarthy’s ouster.

But Ms Welker didn’t let up and pointed the blame back at Mr Gaetz.

Matt Gaetz on ‘Meet the Press’

“You led this effort to oust Speaker McCarthy without a clear replacement in place. Was that irresponsible on your part?” she asked.

“Not only do we have a clear replacement, but we have two,” Mr Gaetz responded, referring to Ohio Rep Jim Jordan and Majority House Leader Steve Scalise, who are vying for the post.

“But it’s not clear either of them have enough votes,” Ms Welker retorted.

Mr Gaetz continued to push back.

“Well I think that in a two-man race, it’s a lot easier to get someone to 50 per cent plus one” compared to a race with more people competing,” he said.

Mr Gaetz then said confidently: “By the way, if we have a speaker Jim Jordan, or a speaker Steve Scalise, at the end of the coming week, there won’t be a single Republican — sans Kevin McCarthy —who doesn’t believe we have upgraded the position.”

He added: “And I’m looking forward to it.”

Lending credence to Ms Welker’s initial question, Axios reported that the White House is concerned that the lack of a House speaker could impact Congress’s ability to approve more aid to Israel.

“Congress will definitely have a role, and without a speaker, this could be a problem,” a US official told the outlet.

The vote for the next speaker is slated for Wednesday.

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