Matt Gaetz accuses Kevin McCarthy of cutting ‘secret side deal’ with Biden

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Congressman Matt Gaetz continued to attack Kevin McCarthy on Monday over the House Republican speaker’s successful efforts to avoid a government shutdown, even as other hard-right lawmakers came to McCarthy’s defense.

Speaking on the House floor on Monday, Gaetz railed against McCarthy, accusing the speaker of cutting “a secret side deal” with Joe Biden to provide additional funding to Ukraine. The stopgap spending measure passed by Congress on Saturday, which extended government funding through November 17, did not include additional money for Ukraine, but members of both parties have called for a supplemental bill to address that omission. Biden said on Saturday that he did “fully expect the speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine” and soon pass a supplemental funding bill.

Related: ‘Let’s have that fight’: McCarthy and Gaetz go to war over shutdown deal

“It is going to be difficult for my Republican friends to keep calling President Biden ‘feeble’ while he continues to take Speaker McCarthy’s lunch money in every negotiation,” Gaetz said in his floor speech. “It is becoming increasingly clear who the speaker of the House already works for, and it’s not the Republican conference.”

Gaetz had vowed on Sunday that he would soon introduce a motion to remove McCarthy as speaker, but he declined to outline a specific timeline for that effort in his floor speech. Calling on McCarthy to reveal the details of his alleged “secret deal” with Biden, Gaetz suggested the motion could be introduced as early as Monday.

“There may be other votes coming today or later this week that could be implicated by the answers to these questions,” Gaetz said. “Members of the Republican party might vote differently on a motion to vacate if they heard what the speaker had to share with us about his secret side deal with Joe Biden on Ukraine. I’ll be listening. Stay tuned.”

Speaking to reporters after the floor speech, Gaetz reiterated his plans to introduce a motion to vacate the chair at some point this week, and he indicated he would keep pushing the issue until McCarthy is removed.

“It took Speaker McCarthy 15 votes to become the speaker, so until I get to 14 or 15, I don’t think I’m being any more dilatory than he was,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz’s threats come after McCarthy was forced to rely on Democratic votes to advance the stopgap funding bill, known as a continuing resolution. Gaetz had threatened that he would move to oust McCarthy if he collaborated with Democrats to keep the government open, and he now appears ready to make good on that threat.

Any single House member can force a vote on vacating the chair, and the motion requires only a simple majority for approval. Because of House Republicans’ narrow majority, McCarthy can only afford to lose five votes within his conference and still hold the speakership, assuming every House member participates in the vote.

Despite that tricky math, McCarthy has responded to Gaetz’s threats with defiance, insisting he has the votes to keep his gavel.

“I’ll survive,” McCarthy told CBS News on Sunday. “So be it. Bring it on. Let’s get over with it and let’s start governing.”

Some of McCarthy’s allies have rallied to his defense, accusing Gaetz of jeopardizing House Republicans’ majority and empowering the Democratic minority. In a floor speech delivered just before Gaetz stepped up to the podium, Congressman Tom McClintock, a Republican of California, noted that the removal of the speaker would grind the House to a halt.

“The immediate effect will be to paralyze the House indefinitely because no other business can be taken up until a replacement is elected … I cannot conceive of a more counterproductive and self-destructive course than that,” McClintock said. “I implore my Republican colleagues to look past their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests and their selfish views and to make a wise decision when it’s needed most at this critical moment in the life of our country.”

Related: McCarthy worked with Democrats to pause the US shutdown. Now his job is at stake

McCarthy has also received some support from Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, the hard-right Republican of Georgia who has become one of the speaker’s most surprising allies since his election in January.

In a 20-post thread shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, Greene argued that Gaetz’s proposed motion to remove McCarthy as speaker “gives the upper hand to the Democrats”.

“I agree with Matt Gaetz that things must change,” Greene said, “but I don’t agree that a motion to vacate will effectively create the changes needed to solve the intentional systemic failure that create the annual never ending [continuing resolutions] and Christmas omnibus mega spending packages.”

Even as she rallied around McCarthy, Greene simultaneously admonished her Republicans colleagues who have reportedly discussed expelling Gaetz, who is at the center of an ongoing ethics committee investigation involving allegations of sexual misconduct and campaign finance violations.

“A Republican-led effort to expel Matt Gaetz absolutely will not be tolerated by Republicans across the country,” Greene said. “I can guarantee you that.”

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