Representative Matt Gaetz pulled off one of the biggest power moves in modern U.S. politics when he successfully led the effort to oust Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House this week, and experts weighed in with Newsweek about whether (or not) they think it was a good idea.
After months of threatening to remove McCarthy, Gaetz finally played his trump card against his longtime rival, introducing a motion to vacate on Monday. When the House voted on Tuesday, Gaetz secured the votes of seven other Republicans and all of the House Democrats to officially push McCarthy out of his leadership position.
“You all know Matt Gaetz. You all know it was personal,” McCarthy told reporters after the vote. “It was all about getting attention from you.”
The historic vote had been largely seen as the culmination of the brewing animosity Gaetz showed for McCarthy and some had questioned what would happen to Gaetz should he finally force a vote only to fail at ousting McCarthy. But now that the Florida congressman has succeeded, it begs the question as to whether the power move is enough to catapult him from conservative firebrand to leading voice of the House GOP, or if it will make him a pariah in his own caucus.
Republican strategist Alex Patton told Newsweek that the motion to vacate was a smart move for Gaetz should he want to pursue another political office that may come with more influence and power.
“Gaetz just became the early frontrunner for Florida’s Governor’s race in two years,” Patton said. “We are likely to have a multi-candidate GOP field and with his alignment with former President Trump, Gaetz can win with a plurality.
“His actions raised his national profile, his small-dollar donations, and makes him the frontrunner for 2026 election in Florida Governor’s race,” he said. “It’s clear he doesn’t value being a Member of Congress and working towards legislating; he clearly has other plans.”
But political scientist Gregory Koger pointed out that Gaetz is still a member of Congress until his term is up in 2025. So, his actions to throw the House into disarray and to thrust Republican infighting into the national spotlight could be detrimental to the next couple of years in his political future.
“Gaetz may have taken down the Speaker of the U.S. House, but in doing so jeopardized his own future,” Koger told Newsweek. “He is now facing efforts from within and without Congress to expel him from the House Republican Conference.”
Fed up with Gaetz’s antics and disruptive behavior, House Republicans have reportedly begun considering expelling Gaetz for leading the effort to eject McCarthy. Specifically, he’s earned the ire of Republicans in the Florida delegation, who have accused him of being driven by attention and campaign donations.
“Gaetz has very few friends in the conference,” Representative Carlos Gimenez told Politico. “Gaetz maybe has a couple of friends in the delegation. But I’m not one of them.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also penned a scathing op-ed on Tuesday calling for the House GOP to expel the congressman for his “childish behavior” and “anti-Republican” conduct.
“House Republicans have far more important things to do than entertain one member’s ego,” Gingrich wrote. “Gaetz has gone beyond regular drama. He is destroying the House GOP’s ability to govern and draw a sharp contrast with the policy disasters of the Biden administration.”
Republican anger could begin with small retributions for Gaetz and his staff, Koger said, but it could also snowball into a massive GOP campaign to get Gaetz primaried and replaced by another Florida Republican who falls in line with the party’s agenda.
“Narrowly speaking, it might just mean that Gaetz and his staff are no longer welcome at Republican meetings and will not receive any assistance from Republican party leaders,” Koger said. “It might also mean that the House majority formally strips him of his committee assignments, ends all assistance from the National Republican Congressional Committee (the campaign organization for House Republicans), and that they actively seek to recruit a ‘real’ Republican for the 2024 party nomination in Florida’s 1st Congressional District.”
He added that House Republicans will continue to mull over what lays ahead for Gaetz, but that because there’s no policy basis behind Gaetz’s actions, his GOP colleagues will blame him for public disapproval over the ousting of McCarthy and the subsequent confusion as the House seeks to elect a new speaker.
“Going back to the 19th century, the primary duty of House members has been to vote for the Speaker candidate nominated by their party,” Koger said. “Gaetz has not only violated that expectation but has publicly challenged a sitting Speaker of his own party, causing extreme embarrassment and chaos.
“Even with a narrow 221-212 margin of control in the U.S. House, Republicans may soon decide that they are better off without Gaetz as a member,” he said.