Matt Gaetz rallies Republicans to oppose Kevin McCarthy House speaker bid

Rep. Matt Gaetz bashed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday night and told his fellow Republicans that they should not back the California lawmaker as House speaker.

Mr. Gaetz, Florida Republican, endorsed Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, for the position when Republicans take control of the House in January as expected.

“I prefer Ohio’s Jim Jordan. And it is not always easy for a guy from the deep south to be for someone from a Big 10 state,” Mr. Gaetz said on his podcast “Firebrand with Matt Gaetz.”

“But I am certain that Americans didn’t hand Republicans this majority in the House just to watch the speaker’s gavel get handed from one member of the California delegation to another.”

Mr. Gaetz described Mr. Jordan as hard-working, ethical, and the most talented member of the lower chamber. 

However, Mr. McCarthy has already brought Mr. Jordan into his leadership circle by giving him the top slot on the Judiciary committee. 

The last House speaker from Ohio also was a Republican, former Rep. John Boehner, who took the gavel from Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the conservative “tea party” wave in the 2010 midterm elections.

Mr. Boehner had a contentious relationship with the tea-party members of his conference, who eventually forced his resignation in 2015.

The current conservative group, the Freedom Caucus, has been a thorn in Mr. McCarthy’s side, having prevented him from attaining the gavel seven years ago.

Even before the election, it already had made demands of the California Republican in return for their support in the wake of a Republican victory, including the power to force a speaker-expulsion vote, which is known as the “motion to vacate the chair.”

The Freedom Caucus is comprised of about 35 GOP members, which gives the group more leverage in the expected narrow majority.

When asked in a Thursday night interview on Fox News Channel, Mr. McCarthy said he was “not concerned” about GOP lawmakers in his conference who are unhappy with him.

“Think about this. Since I’ve been leader for the last four years, we’ve only gained seats. The goal is winning the majority. We won the majority. I think I accomplished the goal that we wanted to,” he told host Jesse Watters.

“People could have input. We want to have a very open input process. We’re going to have a smaller majority. So we’re going to find that we work together to think about what else we did. Not only did we win the majority, we beat the DCCC chair. That has not happened in 42 years,” he said.

But Mr. Gaetz cited the slim majority the GOP is poised to have as a reason not to support Mr. McCarthy for Speaker.

“With such a slim majority, we shouldn’t be starting the C-Team. We need to put our star players in a position to shine brightest so that we can attract more people to our policies and ideas,” he said. “The policies Kevin McCarthy has pushed are as unhelpful as they are unserious.”

In an aggressive move Thursday, although not enough House races have been officially called to give the GOP a majority yet, Mr. McCarthy announced transition teams for the 118th Congress “to ensure that a Republican majority is ready to get to work for the American people on Day One.”

The transition teams consist of various members to address three core priorities of GOP that is set to lead the House of Representatives. 

The teams are “Commitment to America Implementation,” led by Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana; “Oversight and Accountability,” led by Rep. James Comer of Kentucky; and “Restoring the People’s House,” co-led by Mr. Jordan and Rep. Bryan Steil of Wisconsin.

Mr. Gaetz says he has spoken to many Republicans in Congress, and “many who will join our ranks soon,” he said, adding that he does not think Mr. McCarthy will have enough votes to be speaker

“None are actually inspired by Kevin McCarthy, though many feel financially beholden to him, because He is the Lebron James of special interest fundraising. In this last cycle,” he said.

“Kevin McCarthy and his team,” he said, “raised half a billion dollars in campaign money, and that buys a lot of friends or at a minimum rents them.”

According to Mr. Gaetz, some Freedom Caucus members, including himself, want the leadership elections to be delayed at least until the dust has totally settled on the midterm results.

“There is a movement among some in the House Freedom Caucus to request a delay in the leadership elections, because we don’t yet know who will be a Republican member of Congress,” he said.

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