Gaetz Seeks Dem Support to Oust McCarthy: Report

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Matt Gaetz (Getty Images).
September 29, 2023

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz wants his Democratic colleagues to help him oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Politico reports.

The plot, three individuals told Politico was in the works, would be unprecedented in recent history. Gaetz denied the report to the Washington Free Beacon, saying he hasn't "been reading the school newspapers," an apparent reference to Politico, but that he's "been working." But left-wing Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.) went on the record to say otherwise.

"He’s been talking to everybody about it," Jayapal told Politico. "I told him in our caucus, in the Progressive Caucus, we’re not planning to save McCarthy—for a whole host of reasons. And so, we really need to get through the shutdown first."

The rationale behind Gaetz’s alleged maneuver is unclear. The animus between him and McCarthy has been public since McCarthy first secured his speakership in January. Gaetz was a significant roadblock in McCarthy’s bumpy road to the gavel, and has hardly embraced the speaker since his 15th-round "present" vote let McCarthy secure the necessary votes.

Working with Democrats, particularly some of the party’s most liberal lawmakers, would be a significant escalation in their feud. For all of his criticism of McCarthy, Gaetz has yet to endorse a potential successor. And pitching Democrats on a vote to dethrone McCarthy suggests he lacks popular support within his own party.

Gaetz’s reported meetings with Democrats come as Congress works to avert a government shutdown. On Friday, the House voted down a McCarthy-backed continuing resolution to keep the lights on. The bill was defeated after a coalition of Republicans, led by Gaetz, defected.

Gaetz’s move has earned him scorn from his colleagues. Rep. Mike Lawler (R., N.Y.) on Friday called Gaetz a "charlatan."

"I think it's clear that Matt Gaetz is trying to undermine the Republican majority and the speaker for his own personal and political purposes," he said.