House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) attacked Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) Wednesday, saying the Freedom Caucus member has been “working with” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) to conspire against him.
Gaetz has long been an opponent of McCarthy, including refusing to back his Speakership bid in January. He re-upped calls to replace the Speaker last week with a tweet to Swalwell inquiring about Democratic support, which McCarthy claims is, in reality, about an ethics complaint against the Florida congressman.
“Matt is working with Eric Swalwell, but let me be very clear,” McCarthy told CNN. “Matt is upset about an ethics complaint. I don’t care what they threaten against me. I’m not gonna interject into an independent committee like ethics, and I’m not going to put Swalwell back on the intel committee. So, they can do whatever they want.”
Gaetz is facing a House Ethics Committee investigation over allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct and did drugs, among other claims. The Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to prosecute Gaetz on sex trafficking allegations in February.
In an MSNBC interview later Wednesday, Gaetz denied that he is motivated by that investigation.
“I am the most investigated man in the entire Congress, and right there you saw Kevin McCarthy lying like a dead dog because I have never asked him to interfere in any ethics matter,” Gaetz said.
He called McCarthy’s implication that he asked for special treatment on the complaint an “abject lie from a sad and pathetic man who lies to hold onto power.”
Gaetz’s calls for a new Speaker were sparked by his demands for an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. McCarthy backed an impeachment inquiry Tuesday, but Gaetz said that move is only “baby steps.”
Swalwell originally called out Gaetz’s threat to remove McCarthy as “empty.”
“I’ve never seen a colleague make more empty threats — day in/day out than this guy. Gaetz folded like a cheap card table to make McCarthy speaker and will never — I repeat, never — make a motion to remove McCarthy. I do not work with serious people,” Swalwell wrote last week.
House Republicans removed Swalwell and fellow California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff from the Intelligence Committee in January, in a political move Democrats claimed was retribution for similar removals of far-right Republicans from committees.
The controversy over removing McCarthy and impeaching Biden come as negotiations over the federal budget continue. The budget is set to expire at the end of the month.
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