Some of Matt Gaetz’s Republican Colleagues Are Getting Sick of His S–t
Republican congressman Matt Gaetz may have successfully orchestrated the ouster of Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker, but his pro-McCarthy congressional colleagues aren’t letting him off without a reputational beating. On Wednesday, Republican Markwayne Mullin, a senator from Oklahoma who previously served as a representative, accused Gaetz of flaunting his sexual encounters in the workplace. “He bragged about how he would crush ED medicine and chase it with an energy drink so he could go all night,” Mullin told CNN reporter Manu Raju. “This is obviously before he got married.”
Reviving past reports of Gaetz’s alleged involvement with a 17-year-old girl, Mullin also painted Gaetz as a noted sexual deviant desperate for media attention. “There’s a reason why no one in the conference came and defended him,” Mullin said. “Because we had all seen the videos he was showing on the House floor—that all of us had walked away [from]—of the girls that he had slept with.” (In 2020, the Justice Department began investigating Gaetz for sex trafficking and having sex with a minor, but it has since dropped the matter. Gaetz has long denied all allegations against him.)
In a statement to CNN, Gaetz denied the senator’s claims, saying, “I don’t think Markwayne Mullin and I have said 20 words to each other on the House floor. This is a lie from someone who doesn’t know me and who is coping with the death of the political career of his friend Kevin. Thoughts and prayers.”
Marc Short, a former Trump White House aide who served as Mike Pence’s chief of staff, used a line similar to Mullin’s on Wednesday: Gaetz didn’t come to Washington “as a fiscal crusader,” he argued, seemingly referencing the bipartisan stopgap bill that Gaetz used as the catalyst for his motion to end McCarthy’s Speakership. “It’s more likely he came here for the teenage interns on Capitol Hill, to be honest,” Short told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Other Republicans have lashed out at Gaetz in less personal terms. “I’d love to have him out of the conference,” Republican congressman Don Bacon said Tuesday, per The Washington Post. “He shouldn’t be in the Republican Party.” (To Bacon’s point, Republicans forced Gaetz to stand on the Democratic side of the lower chamber on Tuesday.) Mike Lawler, a New York Republican, expressed support for Gaetz’s removal on Wednesday, while Garret Graves, a Louisiana Republican, went so far as to call him a Democratic puppet. “Matt Gaetz just got schooled by AOC and others; he was totally manipulated into doing this,” Graves said Wednesday. “I can’t believe he’s that stupid to be used, to be manipulated by AOC and others to create this outcome.”
In leading the charge against McCarthy, Gaetz has almost single-handedly created a big conundrum for the House majority: A funding package must be passed before the November 17 deadline in order to avoid a government shutdown, but the search for and approval of a new Speaker will eat into the time that members would otherwise have spent hashing out a viable deal. Moreover, the next Speaker will likely face the same constraints that McCarthy did, as Gaetz and other conservative hard-liners will not agree to a funding bill without unrealistic concessions—like domestic spending cuts and a crackdown on immigration—from Senate Democrats and the White House.
Of course, Gaetz wasn’t the only member of his party to support the ouster; seven other Republicans voted for it, as did every Democrat. But having led history’s first successful Speaker coup on the House floor, the Florida firebrand is now embracing his role as standard-bearer for the anti-McCarthy, blow-it-all-up crowd. “We are breaking the fever,” Gaetz announced following the Tuesday vote that prematurely ended McCarthy’s reign.