House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was unable to secure enough support to be the new House speaker after three votes on Tuesday.
Some observers on the left and the establishment right see the 20 GOP rebels withholding support from McCarthy as the outliers.
Speaking to reporters during the voting, the Fort Walton Beach Republican noted that conservatives sought several commonsense commitments from McCarthy — all of which he rejected.
“Those of us who will not be voting for Kevin McCarthy today take no joy in the discomfort that this moment has brought,” said Gaetz, “but if you want to drain the swamp, you cannot put the biggest alligator in charge of the exercise.”
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“I am a Florida man, and I know of what I speak.”
Gaetz continued, “We’ve sought a vote in the first quarter of the 118th Congress on term limits. He refused. We wanted a budget from the Republican Study Committee that balances on the floor in the first quarter. He refused. We wanted the border plan that the Texas delegation put together on the floor. He refused.”
“It is true that we struggle with trust with Mr. McCarthy because, time and again, his viewpoints, his positions, they shift like sands underneath you,” Gaetz added. “Even Kevin McCarthy’s own mentor recently said, ‘The lies always change.’ And Mr. McCarthy is not only responsive to pressure from the right. Time and again, he has failed to achieve the goals that we seek on spending and on the fight.”
Gaetz added that for months McCarthy has refused to share his “battle plan.”
“How do we ensure that we stand up for folks in the military who feel like they’re being purged? How do we ensure that if there’s a passage of a farm bill, it includes things like work requirements? And all we got was a handful of ‘Howdy’ and a mouthful of ‘Much Obliged,’” said Gaetz.
“So we do not want to be here at this moment,” said Gatez. “We would prefer to have a unity of purpose. But we will not continue to allow the uniparty to run this town without a fight.”
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“There’s very little difference between Nancy Pelosi and her California delegation-mate that seeks the gavel,” Gaetz added.
“We want a change because this town is broken, and this is a person, Mr. McCarthy, who has acknowledged that this town is broken, and he has been a part of that process for many years as part of the leadership.”
Replying to a reporter’s question, Gaetz admitted he was threatened with being booted from his perch on the House Armed Services Committee if he did not vote for McCarthy. Others on his side were likewise threatened, he added.
“Our position is that if Kevin McCarthy is the speaker of the House and we don’t have an ability to endure there is oomph behind the agenda and energy behind our oversight, that the committee assignments don’t mean that much anyway,” Gaetz said.
“I’m not here to participate in some puppet show where we pass a bunch of messaging bills, send them to the Senate, watch them die, fail to use leverage, and don’t hold the Biden administration accountable,” said Gaetz.
“I don’t want to relive the Benghazi experience where it is just theater pretending to be oversight,” he said. “We can do better than that, and that is our purpose today.”
In addition to Gaetz, Florida Republican Reps. Byron Donalds of Naples and Anna Paulina Luna of Clearwater voted against McCarthy.
The rest of the rebel corps included Reps. Andy Biggs, Dan Bishop, Lauren Boebert, Josh Brecheen, Michael Cloud, Andrew Clyde, Eli Crane, Bob Good, Paul Gosar, Andy Harris, Mary Miller, Ralph Norman, Andy Ogles, Scott Perry, Matt Rosendale, Chip Roy, and Keith Self.