Matt Gaetz says 'you cannot put the biggest alligator in charge' to 'drain the swamp' in opposing Kevin McCarthy's bid for speaker: 'I'm a Florida man and I know of what I speak'
Matt Gaetz criticized Kevin McCarthy who is seeking to become House speaker.
Gaetz is among several Republicans who are opposed to McCarthy's bid.
The vote to elect a House speaker takes place on Tuesday.
Rep. Matt Gaetz on Tuesday delivered a scathing rebuke of Rep. Kevin McCarthy as the California Republican fights an uphill battle to become House speaker.
"If you want to drain the swamp, you cannot put the biggest alligator in charge of the exercise," Gaetz said. "I'm a Florida man and I know of what I speak."
Gaetz is among at least five hardline Republicans who are opposed to McCarthy leading the GOP conference after the party won a narrow House majority in the 2022 midterm elections.
Their resistance has left McCarthy short of the 218 votes he needs to secure the gavel, threatening his chances of earning the top post. Republicans now hold 222 seats, and Democrats control 212. Another nine Republicans over the weekend also criticized McCarthy, withholding support for him.
"We offered Kevin McCarthy terms last evening that he rejected," Gaetz said, adding that those opposed to McCarthy's bid also "struggle" with trusting him.
McCarthy, who's been the Republican minority leader for the past four years, won the nomination to lead the conference in a closed-door meeting in November. But since he needs a majority of votes to secure the role, McCarthy has been trying to convince his fellow members to back him.
After the conference met again in a closed-door on Tuesday morning, hours before the vote for House speaker, McCarty emerged insisting that he will fight for the top spot.
"I'm not going anywhere," McCarthy said, adding that he "will always fight to put the American people first, not a few individuals that want something for themselves."
"So we may have a battle on the floor," he continued, "but the battle is for the conference and the country, and that's fine with me."
This GOP division comes as the 118th Congress kicks off on Tuesday, welcoming 82 new members. But lawmakers cannot be sworn in until the House elects a speaker. If Republicans continue their protest against McCarthy, it could take hours, days, or even weeks until a speaker is chosen.
"I have the record for the longest speech ever on the floor," McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday. "I don't have a problem getting a record for the most votes for speaker too."
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