The longstanding feud between Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) goes back much farther than Tuesday’s historic vote to unseat McCarthy as House speaker.
Gaetz has long been McCarthy’s loudest opponent — dramatically voting “present” rather than backing the California Republican’s bid for the gavel in January.
McCarthy has repeatedly claimed Gaetz has borne him a grudge for refusing his demand that McCarthy intervene in an ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation.
“He’s blaming me for an ethics complaint against him that happened in the last Congress. I have nothing to do with it,” McCarthy told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” just hours before he was voted out.
Gaetz, who is rumored to be eyeing a run for Florida governor in 2026, is being eyed by the ethics panel over allegations of sexual misconduct, illicit drug use and campaign finance violations as well as taking bribes.
Many Congress members — including fellow Republicans — reportedly are eager to expel the Sunshine State politician if he is found guilty of wrongdoing.
“He wants me to try to wipe that away … I’m not going to do that. That’s illegal,” McCarthy said Tuesday morning. “And you know what? If some way I lose my job because I uphold the law [and the] continuity of government, so be it.”
The Republican-controlled House Ethics Committee quietly relaunched its probe into Gaetz this past July, CNN reported.
The investigation was originally opened in April 2021 alongside a Justice Department probe over allegations that Gaetz was part of a scheme that led to the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl.
Federal officials concluded their two-year investigation in February without handing down any criminal charges, but sources told CNN the Justice Department’s decision will not impact what the committee will and won’t investigate.
The details of the investigation have long been kept under wraps, but center around claims Gaetz engaged in sexual misconduct and illicit drug use; shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor; misused state identification records; converted campaign funds to personal use; and accepted bribes.
Gaetz has long professed his innocence of both the investigative claims and McCarthy’s contention the Floridian blames the now-former House Speaker for the reinvigorated investigation.
Instead, Gaetz maintains he pushed for McCarthy’s removal because the California congressman has not been serious in supporting spending cuts, and claimed Sunday that the speaker had been negotiating a secret deal with President Biden to secure aid for Ukraine while supporting a stopgap measure to fund the government that doesn’t include aid to the war-torn country. (McCarthy has denied any such arrangement.)
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