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Matt Gaetz and Kevin McCarthy continue feud amid speaker talk

Representative Kevin McCarthy mocked rival Congressman Matt Gaetz just days after the Florida Republican led the efforts to oust McCarthy from House speakership.

McCarthy, of the GOP, was removed following a deal he negotiated with Democrats to temporarily avoid a government shutdown, which angered some hardline Republicans, including Gaetz, resulting in his ouster. The historic vote on Tuesday was triggered by Gaetz, who introduced a motion to vacate. Eight Republicans joined all House Democrats in attendance to kick McCarthy out of the role on a vote of 216-210.

The bloodshed that erupted in Israel over the weekend has added to the mounting pressure on Congress to quickly fill the role. Since the ouster, McCarthy and Gaetz have been trading blows, fueling tension within the GOP as the House scrambles to find a new speaker.

Gaetz has been facing increasing criticism from his conservative colleagues who have accused him of leaving the GOP in a “weakened position” after ousting one of their own from a leadership position.

Newsweek reached out via email on Monday to McCarthy’s representatives for comment.

The ex-speaker appeared on Monday’s segment of The Story on Fox News as the Israeli military was conducting strikes in Gaza in response to Hamas attacks over the weekend. While speaking with host Martha MacCallum, McCarthy lashed out at Gaetz.

MacCallum, who noted during the interview that it’s been a “rough week” for the House of Representatives, said that Gaetz had been “speaking out again … wondering why you’re inserting yourself into” news about Israel.

The Fox News host then showed a video of Gaetz being interviewed on Meet the Press Sunday, where he responded to McCarthy’s prior comments about the uncertainty of the House amid the international crisis.

“I don’t think that other countries think about Kevin McCarthy’s speakership quite as much as Kevin McCarthy does,” Gaetz said in the clip. “There’s no ask from Israel that we are unable to meet because it’s going to take us a few days to pick a new speaker.”

McCarthy quickly shot back he’s not going to “sit back and do nothing,” before taking aim at Gaetz, saying that if Congress had listened to his rival, U.S. service members “wouldn’t be paid.”

“This isn’t about the speakership,” McCarthy said. “I am still a member of Congress. I understand the relationship between America and Israel. I have dear friends in the leadership there and living there. And I’m not going to sit back and do nothing. What I have found what’s going on, if we had listened to Matt Gaetz, we would be in a government shutdown right now. So, our own troops wouldn’t be paid. What strength would we have in the world then?”

Speculation has been intensifying that McCarthy could also return to the podium, something he said he is open to doing during a radio interview on Monday.

“Whatever the conference wants, I will do,” McCarthy said during an interview on Hugh Hewitt’s conservative radio show when asked about a possible return to the role that took him 15 rounds of voting to secure in January.

New York Republican Representative Mike Lawler said in a video posted to X, formerly Twitter, that there are “a lot” of people who think the former speaker is the “right person” for the role.

“People are disgusted by what happened,” Lawler said. “It shouldn’t have happened. And I believe a good portion of the conference believes Kevin McCarthy should continue to be speaker.”

In response to Newsweek‘s request for comment, Gaetz’s spokesperson Joel Valdez referred to a post on X by the congressman mocking Lawler’s comments.

“‘A lot of people’ < 218,” Gaetz said in the post. “Math is real. Time to move forward.”

Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina immediately succeeded McCarthy as speaker pro tempore, having been selected by McCarthy as his temporary replacement in January.

It is unclear who might take on the role as lawmakers are still trying to find a name that can earn the required 218 votes.

Update 10/09/2023, 11:15 p.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from Valdez.

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