Matt Gaetz says losing his seat would be price worth paying for ousting McCarthy

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Matt Gaetz says he isn’t worried about challenges from within his own party after successfully leading the ousting of Kevin McCarthy from his speakership role last week.

The Republican congressman and longtime close ally of Donald Trump was on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday after he successfully led seven other Republicans in voting to kick Mr McCarthy out of his job on Tuesday. Doing so made Mr McCarthy one of the shortest-serving House speakers in history and paralysed the lower chamber of Congress until a new speaker can be elected.

It also cemented Mr McCarthy’s reputation as one of the weakest speakers in memory, given that he was unable to convince a single Democrat to vote in favour of saving him; despite outreach from moderates, the Democratic caucus felt insulted by the former speaker’s efforts to falsely blame their party for a government shutdown that had only been averted when their party voted to help Mr McCarthy pass a funding resolution which the majority of his own caucus opposed.

Mr Gaetz told NBC’s Kristin Welker on Sunday that removing Mr McCarthty, in his mind, was “absolutely” worth being ousted from his seat through expulsion or a primary challenge. Both have been openly threatened by other members of his caucus, allies of Mr McCarthy, in the past week.

“They want to expel me from Congress? That’s crazy,” he told Welker.

Mr Gaetz, responding to a question from The Independent, said in a press scrum after Mr McCarthy’s firing that he would require any GOP candidate who wanted his vote for speaker to commit to an aggressive timeline for putting a series of hardline conservative budget measures to the floor. It’s a tough spot for any Republican leader to be in, given that the US government is once again approaching a shutdown deadline ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The people who want budgets are actually agents of regular order,” he contended to NBC on Sunday.

He also went on to say on Twitter that he would drop his demand for the motion to vacate threshold to remain lowered were the House to pass a slate of anti-corruption legislation introduced by Rep Ro Khanna, a progressive Democrat. The lowered motion to vacate threshold, set by Mr McCarthy in January as a concession to hardliners including Mr Gaetz, spelled his doom last week as it allowed the House to oust the Speaker with the support of only a handful of the majority party’s members.

Though threats of a primary challenge may be very real, Mr Gaetz likely has little to fear given the hard-right bent of his Florida district and the unpopularity of the Republican House leadership team in such districts. He may face a greater threat in the form of a motion to expel him, which reports indicate Republicans may opt for should an Ethics Committee probe into Mr Gaetz provide an excuse to do so.