Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., finally got the GOP civil war he appears to have been pining for. And with it, he's facing a wave of backlash from fellow party members over his attempt to force the federal government to shut down.
Just as Donald Trump ordered, Gaetz and other GOP hard-liners pushed for a shutdown unless House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave in to their demands. In part, Gaetz said he wanted McCarthy, R-Calif., to hold votes on term limits and investigations into President Joe Biden. On Monday night, Gaetz followed through on his threat to try and oust McCarthy, filing a motion to vacate the California Republican's speakership, thrusting the GOP into deeper turmoil.
Gaetz has often seemed giddy over the idea of a shutdown. He has suggested his brinkmanship would have been "worth it" to force House Republicans to openly state, or denounce, their commitment to MAGA ideals. And he has publicly attacked McCarthy for refusing to fall in line with the shutdown push. On Sunday, Gaetz vowed to kick off the process of ousting McCarthy as speaker.
It appears Gaetz is in for the MAGA melee he wanted. Because House Republicans, and even some conservative media personalities, have openly lambasted him in response to his futile obstructionist effort. The sand-throwing shows a widening chasm between a McCarthyian wing of the House GOP caucus — which, though extreme, still believes in a semblance of bureaucratic governance — and a Gaetzian sect that evidently wouldn’t mind burning it all down.
Last week, I wrote about former House Republican leader Eric Cantor’s criticizing far-right Republicans for stoking a shutdown for social media clout. Cantor's not alone when it comes to gripes about Gaetz and pals. Rep. Mike Lawler, a Republican who represents a New York district Biden won in 2020, denounced Gaetz on Friday as a “charlatan.” Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, said the GOP holdouts "killed the most conservative position we could take" with their obstruction.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested Gaetz might be an “agent” for liberals.
“Is Gaetz secretly an agent for the Democratic Party? No one else is doing as much to undermine, weaken and cripple the House GOP,” Gingrich said on X, adding his belief that Gaetz should be expelled from the House Republican Conference.
And Carlos Gimenez, Gaetz's fellow GOP congressman from Florida, said the hard-line obstructionism forced McCarthy to negotiate with Democrats, claiming Gaetz made himself Biden’s “favorite Republican.” I don’t know about all that.
But I do imagine the president is relishing all this Republican infighting — if only because it serves him well politically. And in that sense, he and Gaetz may, in fact, be similar.