McCarthy: Gaetz said ‘I don’t care’ if Jeffries wins Speakership instead of me

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) criticized Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Tuesday after he reportedly told House GOP members that he doesn’t care if the chamber elects Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), the incoming Democratic leader, as Speaker instead of McCarthy.

McCarthy told reporters that Gaetz, who is one of at least a handful of hard-line conservative members attempting to block him from becoming Speaker, said that “I don’t care” if Jeffries were to win the gavel via a plurality of votes in order to deny the California Republican the top spot.

The remarks came after a heated House GOP conference meeting before the entire House meets to elect, or not elect, a new Speaker.

McCarthy ahead of the vote singled out Gaetz during remarks to reporters where he signaled he would not back down from a fight.

“There’s times we’re going to have to argue with our own members, if they’re looking out for only positions for themselves, not for the country,” McCarthy said. “For the last two months we worked together. As a whole conference, we developed rules that empower all members. But we’re not empowering certain members over others.”

“Last night, I was presented the only way to have 218 votes if I provided certain members with certain positions certain gavels to take over to chair committees, to have certain budgets, and they even came to the position where one Matt Gaetz said ‘I don’t care if we got a plurality, and we elect Hakeem Jeffries,’ and it hurts the new front-line members not to get reelected,” the GOP leader said. “Well, that’s not about America, and I will always fight to put the American people first — not a few individuals that want something for themselves.”

Gaetz and Reps. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Bob Good (R-Va.) are spearheading the effort to block McCarthy from winning the job he has had in his sights for nearly eight years.

“I have the record for the longest speech ever on the floor. I don’t have a problem getting a record for most votes for Speaker, too,” McCarthy said after the meeting. Asked how long it will take to elect a Speaker, McCarthy said: “I think it might take a while.”

Gaetz added to reporters that McCarthy and his allies have refused to make a deal on what they have argued is a wish list from those who remain holdouts.

“He stood up and he shook our hands and he said, ‘I can’t do it,’ or ‘I won’t do’ and here we are,” Gaetz said.

In addition to the five members, Reps. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, have all indicated they will vote against McCarthy as well.

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