While Florida GOP Rep Matt Gaetz has argued that his successful effort to remove former Speaker Kevin McCarthy from the top job in the House wasn’t rooted in frustration at an ethics probe being opened into him, in private, he has suggested otherwise, a report has indicated.
“I’ve heard him complain about Kevin because of it,” a GOP staffer told the outlet.
Mr McCarthy said on numerous occasions that he wasn’t controlling the Ethics Committee, something Mr Gaetz never believed.
The former speaker chose to leave his Bakersfield, California seat after leaving the speakership just nine months into his tenure.
“As I’ve answered likely 100 times on the record, I led the charge to remove Kevin McCarthy from his role as House Speaker because he failed to keep his promises,” Mr Gaetz told The Daily Beast.
He argued that the outlet “continues to lie about me” and that “it’s due for a round of layoffs”.
The House Ethics probe was opened in 2021 but was soon tabled to allow the Department of Justice to carry out its own investigation. DoJ did not charge Mr Gaetz. The House investigation is now looking into claims that Mr Gaetz paid to have sex with a minor teenager in 2017, in addition to other allegations of wrongdoing. Mr Gaetz denies the claims.
The House probe was restarted again not long after DoJ made its announcement, starting to reach out to possible witnesses around June, the same month that Mr Gaetz initiated his ouster of Mr McCarthy.
“We’re concerned that the fundamental commitments that allowed Kevin McCarthy to assume the speakership have been violated as a consequence of the debt limit deal,” he said during a press briefing at the time.
While the feud between Mr Gaetz and Mr McCarthy has been going on for years, it came to a head in January last year when the Floridian attempted to block Mr McCarthy’s path to the speakership.
In the fall, Mr McCarthy opted to pass a short-term funding bill with the help of the Democrats to keep the government open. Mr Gaetz had threatened that this would be the last drop, filing the motion to vacate in early October.
On 14 December, Mr McCarthy told the press that “we all know it’s the ethics complaint on Gaetz” that led to the motion to vacate.
Earlier this week, after it was reported that the Ethics Committee has interviewed a number of new witnesses in the probe, Mr Gaetz told The Independent in a statement: “It’s great to see the Ethics Committee has interests beyond trading stocks. They seem to be quite the unusual whales.”
A spokesperson for Mr Gatez noted that “the Ethics inquiry started under Speaker Pelosi and continued under former Speaker McCarthy”.
When reached by The Independent on Friday, a spokesperson for Mr Gaetz referred back to the congressman’s statement to The Daily Beast and his previous comments during the time of the speaker fight, sharing links to tweets posted by the Florida Republican.
“For some people, like @SpeakerMcCarthy, policy failures are recast as personal because their own failures are personally embarrassing to them,” Mr Gatez tweeted on 2 October last year as he posted a video of himself speaking to the press outside the Capitol.
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 2, 2023
On 17 September last year, he shared a video of Mr McCarthy appearing on Fox News, saying: “It’s disappointing that @SpeakerMcCarthy is spending one of his final Sundays as Speaker lying about me on Fox.”