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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) engaged in a bit of gloating after former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced that he was leaving Congress by the end of the year. After having been ousted from the Speakership in an effort headed by Gaetz, it appears McCarthy is rethinking his career in politics.
After making the announcement, Republican politicians and members of the chattering class chimed in, most wishing him well. But Gaetz, a vocal foe of the former Speaker, couldn’t resist the temptation to take a potshot. In a post on X, he wrote, “Today is a great day to watch #GaveledOut!” referring to a video documentary about McCarthy’s ouster.
Today is a great day to watch #GaveledOut! 👇 https://t.co/g1mlBxIGCt
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) December 6, 2023
In another post, Gaetz wrote “McLeavin.”
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) December 6, 2023
Other lawmakers had more positive things to say about the former speaker.
Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), a longtime ally of McCarthy’s, told the Washington Examiner that he is disappointed about McCarthy’s departure.
“I surely will miss him, but I think the House will miss him more,” Gimenez said.
The Florida Republican said it took McCarthy “years to develop the networks that he did,” and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) will also need years to “develop his network.”
“No one could raise funds like Kevin McCarthy could, and so to replace him at this point with the short time frame that we have for the next election, that’s an impossible task for Speaker Johnson,” he continued. “If he comes even close, I’ll take my hat off to him, but yeah, it could have negative consequences to the conference, yeah, without a doubt.”
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) told the Washington Examiner he wished McCarthy well in the wake of his decision to leave Congress.
“I’d have liked him to stay, but it’s kind of hard to ask somebody to stay after, you know, they’re weighing some longer-term decisions,” Scalise said.
When asked about his concern over the slim majority, Scalise said, “Every day is a tough day.”
“Whether we had a five-seat majority or a two-seat majority, it’s still going to be complicated,” he added. “But it just means we got to be more unified, and I think it puts the focus on us staying unified.”
McCarthy announced his impending departure in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, saying he’d “decided to depart the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways.” He also declared that he will “continue to recruit our country’s best and brightest to run for elected office.”
For many on the right, the successful effort to remove McCarthy was a resounding victory. Some saw it as a triumph over the establishment forces that remained in the Republican Party. Yet every Republican lawmaker, with the exception of eight, voted against taking McCarthy out of the position. Without Democrats voting in full force to get rid of the former speaker, Gaetz’s political maneuver would have been doomed to failure.
Yet, many indications suggest that, despite McCarthy’s political fate, the old guard maintains control of the GOP. Sure, there are Republican politicians with a more populist Trumpian bent in office, but not enough to influence the ultimate trajectory of the party. This isn’t to say that the conservative wing doesn’t have any influence. The new House Speaker, Mike Johnson (R-LA), appears to be more amenable to working with the more conservative wing of the party. His decision to release more of the J6 footage was a step in the right direction.
On the other hand, Johnson still accepted the continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown, which raised a few hackles among the base. Moreover, the party apparatus itself is still being run by RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel despite her dismal record when it comes to winning elections. There has been some progress, but the Trumpian element in the party are still not the ones running the ship at the moment, and McCarthy’s resignation isn’t going to change that.