Apr 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy takes shot at Gaetz scandal when discussing his ouster

Kevin McCarthy, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and pink tie, speaks with one hand pointing behind him. To his right are two American flags.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) speaks during a weekly news conference in May 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) on Tuesday pinned his House speakership ouster on Rep. Matt Gaetz's desire for him to end a congressional ethics investigation after the Florida Republican "slept with a 17 year old."

Why it matters: About six months after his ejection driven by Gaetz's motion to vacate, House Republicans remain embroiled in dysfunction as another effort to drive out its speaker has bubbled up.

  • "I'll give you the truth why I'm not speaker," McCarthy said during a Tuesday interview at Georgetown University. "It's because one person, a member of Congress, wanted me to stop an ethics complaint because he slept with a 17 year old."
  • "An ethics complaint that started before I ever became speaker, and that's illegal and I'm not going to get in the middle. Did he do it or not? I don't know, but [the Ethics Committee] is looking at it. There's other people in jail because of it."
  • "Kevin McCarthy is a liar," Gaetz said on X on Wednesday. "That's why he is no longer speaker."

Catch up quick: The House voted 216-210 to remove McCarthy in October.

  • Gaetz had threatened to introduce the motion if McCarthy allowed a continuing resolution to stop a government shutdown to come to the House floor.
  • During many rounds of voting on his speakership bid earlier in 2023, McCarthy made concessions with conservative colleagues, ultimately allowing only one member to call a motion to vacate.
  • McCarthy announced in December that he would resign at the end of the year, and the special election for his seat is headed for a May runoff.

Flashback: Gaetz was under a federal investigation, which began under Rep. Nancy Pelosi's (D-Ca.) speakership, related to sexual misconduct with a teenager.

  • A former Gaetz associate, Joel Greenberg, admitted to a variety of federal charges in 2021, including sex trafficking a minor. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2022.
  • Gaetz has denied the allegations against him.

Between the lines: Gaetz and McCarthy long had a contentious relationship, and McCarthy said the motion to vacate was "personal"

  • Gaetz, last year, said the move to oust McCarthy would have been "absolutely" worth potentially losing his job.
  • After McCarthy's removal, Gaetz called for an ethics complaint against the former speaker over "a substantial increase in breaches of decorum."

The big picture: House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) now also faces threats to his leadership, prompted by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) last month.

  • Many House Republicans have brushed off Greene's attempt with frustration, ambivalence or hostility, Axios' Andrew Solender reported.
  • McCarthy doesn't think Johnson will be ousted, he said on Tuesday.
  • "The Dems will never let it happen," McCarthy said.

Go deeper: Marjorie Taylor Greene stirs GOP turmoil with Mike Johnson threats

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