Articles

Give Matt Gaetz the Silent Treatment

October 05, 2023
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Tuesday’s vote to remove Kevin McCarthy as House speaker is a disaster for the GOP and a victory for two groups that are, for different reasons, determined to undermine the Republican Party. 

The first is a handful of Republicans led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.). They believed the party’s narrow margin gave their crew of rabble-rousers power to dictate policy and personnel to the GOP majority. Teamwork? Cooperation? Give and take with party colleagues? Mr. Gaetz’s group thinks those are for suckers.

Emboldened by their success, this chaos contingent may try to make things hard for any new leader. But they’ll face blowback. Their fellow Republicans intensely disliked what the Gaetz gang did. 

The other winners on Tuesday were House Democrats, and that was obvious to everyone except the clueless chaos contingent. Democrats laughed at Mr. Gaetz on the House floor after he gave a statement on his motion to vacate, clearly grateful to have such a willing tool in the Florida Republican.

The Gaetz stunt destroyed what little bargaining power congressional Republicans had going into budget negotiations. Mr. Biden can now deal with a weakened and internally divided GOP House caucus. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will play hardball with the new Republican speaker, whose position will be precarious. The time the GOP spends selecting one and getting him up to speed could otherwise be used to pressure the Senate and White House for spending restraint and policy changes to be agreed on before the next budget deadline in mid-November.

Mr. Gaetz has also given Democrats new opportunities going into the 2024 elections by making Republicans look like dysfunctional losers. A new Gallup poll shows voters tend to agree with the GOP on the issues but dislike the party. Americans—especially the swing voters on which GOP hopes for holding the House rest—will see Mr. McCarthy’s removal as evidence that Republicans don’t have their act together. Who can blame them?

The legendary Speaker Sam Rayburn was right: Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one. After suffering through 15 ballots to get elected speaker in January, Kevin McCarthy demonstrated he could carpenter together a coalition. Matt Gaetz has shown he’s worse than a jackass.

The Floridian is an egotistical nihilist. He wants to burn things down, including the party to which he belongs, so that he gets more attention. He has no governing vision. He denies the reality of what’s possible with a bare GOP margin in the House and Democratic control of the Senate and White House. Mr. Gaetz is all about himself, focusing on cable-TV appearances, social-media posts, and urgent email appeals for campaign funds in one of the safest Republican districts.

He and the rest of his gang are parasites. Though some required millions from House GOP coffers to get elected, none have raised much of anything for the party’s effort to keep the majority. Now they’ve helped defenestrate its most effective congressional fundraiser. It’s all about them, not the team. And oh yes, Mr. Gaetz is fundraising off the vote, saying the rest of House Republicans are “RINOs” who “grovel and bend the knee for the lobbyists and special interests.”

It’s evident Mr. Gaetz had no plan except to remove Mr. McCarthy and acted on no discernible principle. He tried to hide his contempt for Mr. McCarthy behind supposedly substantive objections to his speakership, but they don’t hold water. Mr. Gaetz is no spending purist—he didn’t go on a jihad against President Trump when he added $6.7 trillion to the national debt. 

And it was Mr. McCarthy who was the GOP’s best shot at a reasonable budget and regular order. Yet Mr. Gaetz & Co. fought his efforts to pass all 12 appropriations bills before the start of the fiscal year. The Floridian’s actions this week weren’t about policy but about preening and power—and anger over Mr. McCarthy’s refusal to stop an ethics investigation of Mr. Gaetz.

Tuesday’s vote to remove Kevin McCarthy as House speaker is a disaster for the GOP and a victory for two groups that are, for different reasons, determined to undermine the Republican Party. 

The first is a handful of Republicans led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.). They believed the party’s narrow margin gave their crew of rabble-rousers power to dictate policy and personnel to the GOP majority. Teamwork? Cooperation? Give and take with party colleagues? Mr. Gaetz’s group thinks those are for suckers.

Emboldened by their success, this chaos contingent may try to make things hard for any new leader. But they’ll face blowback. Their fellow Republicans intensely disliked what the Gaetz gang did. 

Read More at the WSJ

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