Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) accused each other of not adhering to conservative values after the Florida congressman led the ultimately successful effort to remove McCarthy.
Hours after McCarthy was removed from his position following the successful motion to vacate the chair — which calls a vote on the Speaker position if just one member of the majority calls for a vote — the longtime House GOP leader confirmed that he would not be seeking the gavel again at a press conference.
After wishing the conference well and thanking the American people for the opportunity to serve as House Speaker, McCarthy took aim at the eight Republicans who voted in favor of the motion to vacate. Democrats voted as a conference in favor of the motion, meaning that McCarthy could only afford to lose support from five Republicans.
The former House speaker stated his belief that the motion to vacate is damaging to the institution, arguing that it allowed Democrats to dictate terms to the Republican-led House. “You need 218. Unfortunately, four percent of the Republican conference can join all the Democrats and dictate who can be the Republican speaker in this House,” McCarthy said.
He then took questions from reporters following his statement and again criticized his detractors, accusing them of lacking conservative values and personal animus in the case of Rep. Gaetz. “They voted against one the greatest cut in history that Congress has ever voted for 2 trillion, they voted against work requirements, they voted against NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) reform. They voted against border security — they don’t get to say they’re conservative because they’re angry and they’re chaotic,” McCarthy told reporters, adding that they are “not conservatives.”
He also mentioned Rep. Gaetz by name, stating that his motives for ousting him had “nothing to do with spending,” further accusing him of holding a grudge for not squashing ethics investigations into him.
Gaetz responded almost immediately during an interview with Laura Ingraham of Fox News, stating that the move to challenge McCarthy was necessary due to broken promises. “Kevin McCarthy believes we have to utilize continuing resolutions and if the continuing resolution is conservative enough, if you hang some bells and whistles on it, that really ought to pacify people who are right-leaning throughout the country,” Gaetz said after McCarthy’s press conference. “I believe that the only way to achieve programmatic reform and put downward pressure on spending is to do what was done back in the 1990s where every individual bill is conferenced and debated and subject to amendment.”
Gaetz also rejected the notion that he advanced a motion to vacate in order to fundraise, stating that he refuses to take money from lobbyists.
Ingraham went on to ask whether former President Donald Trump is in support of Tuesday’s proceedings, as both McCarthy and Gaetz have been Trump allies over the years. “I support President Trump, eager to campaign with him. Probably our private conversations I’m going to keep to us, but I think I’m in pretty good stead with the former president. You’ll see me on the campaign trail with him soon,” Gaetz said. “And by the way, you know who you won’t see on the campaign trail at a big rally? Kevin McCarthy. Because if Kevin McCarthy took the stage at a Trump rally, he would be booed off of it like Lindsey Graham.”