Kevin McCarthy ripped into the Republicans who voted to dethrone him from the speaker’s chair Tuesday in a defiant message to members of his own party.
“They’re not conservatives and they don’t get to call themselves conservatives,” McCarthy said of the eight GOP members who, along with Democrats, backed an effort not seen in more than 100 years to oust him from the speakership.
McCarthy (R-Calif.) pulled no punches when asked about Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), the mastermind of his historic removal as speaker of the House of Representatives.
“You all know Matt Gaetz,” he told reporters during his first remarks following his ouster. “You know it was personal. It had nothing to do with spending.”
McCarthy charged that his Florida counterpart’s actions were “not becoming of a member of Congress,” and that Gaetz’s long expected motion to strip him of his gavel was fueled entirely by a House Ethics Committee investigation weighing over the Sunshine State lawmaker and his his refusal to intervene in the matter – a claim Gaetz denies.
“Regardless of what you think, I’ve seen the texts. It was all about his Ethics, but that’s alright,” McCarthy said.
The former speaker, whose 269-day tenure leading the lower chamber is the shortest in nearly 150 years, also accused Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) – one of the eight – of appealing to God for Republicans to suffer defeats in 2022 midterm elections.
“Matt Rosendale. He goes to Mass every day,” McCarthy said. “But you know what he said his prayer was all last year? That Republicans didn’t have a big victory. That they had a narrow victory.”
“When you have members like that, that are part of your team, you’ve got a tough team,” he added.
McCarthy further insinuated that Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) lied on “The View,” by telling the cast that he didn’t keep his promises to her.
“So, I call her chief of staff … I said, ‘Can you please tell me, I don’t understand? Where have I not kept my word?’” McCarthy explained. “Chief of staff said, ‘You have kept your word 100%.’”
“I bite my lip,” McCarthy added. “I let people say things that are not true. But it’s not right. It is not right. Her chief of staff told all of us we have kept every single one of our words. And he said he’s told her that, too.”
McCarthy vowed that he would give Mace’s chief of staff – Dan Hanlon – a job if she fires him.
Mace, Gaetz and Rosendale, along with Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Eli Crane of Arizona and Bob Good of Virginia, banded together with a united Democrat conference to declare the office of speaker vacant by a vote of 216-210.
The congressman expressed fear that his opponents – a tiny fraction of the GOP conference – have damaged the “institution” of Congress.
“My fear is the institution fell today, because you can’t do the job if eight people – you have 94% of, or 96% of, your entire conference – but eight people can partner with the whole other side,” McCarthy said.
“How do you govern?” he lamented.
The California Republican also shot down claims by Gaetz that he made a “secret side deal with President Biden on Ukraine” during the battle over a stopgap funding measure to keep the government from shutting down over the weekend.
“Unequivocally, no,” McCarthy said of the purported backroom deal with the White House, explaining that he only reached out to the Biden administration to discuss the “transferability of money” in the continuing resolution.
“Look I support arming Ukraine,” McCarthy made clear. “That doesn’t mean sending them cash but arming Ukraine, but I have been on the White House – even before they sent this supplemental, I said, ‘You guys are doing it all wrong by just sending us a supplemental’ – and I think the president is failing here because he’s not telling the American public what is the mission.”
McCarthy further compared Russia’s war against Ukraine to “the 1930s.”
“A lot of actions that Putin takes is very similar to Hitler,” he said.
With McCarthy out as House speaker, lawmakers now face a rerun of the marathon process that took place in January, where it took the full House 15 rounds of voting over five days to elect a speaker – a process that was mired in GOP infighting.