WASHINGTON – Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had sharp words for Matt Gaetz, the conservative hardliner who spearheaded his ouster, saying the Republican party would benefit “tremendously” if Gaetz were to leave Congress.
McCarthy, R-Calif., in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN, said he believed his ouster was “more personal” than anything else and suggested Gaetz, R-Fla., led the push out of revenge for an ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation into Gaetz’ conduct.
“I think it’s more personal. If the Ethics Committee never does anything to Gaetz, then Gaetz was successful in stopping what probably should rightfully come to him,” McCarthy said.
The House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Gaetz in 2021 over sprawling allegations which include sexual misconduct, illicit drug use and misuse of campaign funds.
The Florida conservative, McCarthy said, “would throw his country away to try to protect himself from what would come out as the truth.”
Eight Republicans, including Gaetz, voted with all House Democrats to eject McCarthy from the speakership in October. McCarthy said he doesn’t “believe” those eight GOP members “to be conservatives.”
Gaetz, specifically, doesn’t have a “conservative bent,” he said.
“People have to earn the right to be here,” McCarthy said. “He’ll admit to you personally, he doesn’t have a conservative bent in his philosophy.”
Two of the Republicans who voted against McCarthy, he said, specifically surprised him: Reps. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn. and Nancy Mace, R-S.C.
“It seemed out of nature,” McCarthy said, noting that Burchett and Mace voted for him back in January during the House’s marathon speaker election that saw McCarthy endure 15 ballots to win the gavel.
“They seemed to have changed during the time. They care a lot about press, not about policy so they seem to just want the press and the personality,” he said.
McCarthy expressed concern over the future of the House Republican conference if Gaetz does not face any repercussions but declined to say whether he thought he should be expelled from Congress.
“That’s up to the conference,” McCarthy said. “But I mean, I don’t believe the conference will ever heal if there’s no consequences for the action.”
Whether the ousted speaker would stay in office despite losing his leadership position, McCarthy said he will mull a decision over the holidays with his family and noted he does not have to be in Congress to remain influential within the GOP.
“There are so many ways you can do that to make sure you’re getting the job done and I’m going to look at all options,” he said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: McCarthy: Republicans would benefit ‘tremendously’ without Matt Gaetz