The office of House Speaker is officially empty, and the Republican Party is in a state of chaos.
On Tuesday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) became the first House Speaker ever to be fired from the position. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) brought a motion to oust him on Monday, and then he and seven other Republicans voted to ditch the California congressman a day later. The rest of the party was not happy, and in some cases visibly distraught, after the GOP left itself with no leader and no clear path forward.
Politico reported that a group of Republicans huddled together in prayer on the House floor following the vote, and that Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) even appeared to be crying. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) also seemed shaken by the development. “I thought it was unfair to Kevin,” Jordan, one of the most vocal members of the far-right Freedom Caucus, told CNN. “He’s a good man and he didn’t deserve this.”
There was also plenty of ire, much of it directed at Gaetz and his band of rogue Republicans, and much of it from fellow MAGA loyalists. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) responded to criticism from Gaetz with some choice verbiage. “Some of our brothers and sisters — particularly in the, you know, MAGA camp, I think — particularly enjoy the circular firing squad,” he told The Blaze. “You want to come at me and call me a RINO, you can kiss my ass. You go around talking your big game and thumping your chest on Twitter. Come in my office and have a debate motherfucker.”
Pundits across Fox News were similarly incensed. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Sean Hannity that the Republicans who had voted to oust McCarthy from office were “traitors,” and that all eight “should be primaried, they should all be driven out of public life.” He added that Gaetz should be booted from the party. “He hates Kevin McCarthy,” Gingrich said, “and I think it’s disgraceful, and I hope they expel him from the conference.”
Jeannine Pirro added on The Five that she is “furious” and that “what we’ve got is total chaos when the Republicans are playing out their infighting on national television in a historic way instead of fighting Joe Biden’s policies.” Diehard MAGA host Mark Levin added that if Republicans lose the next election, the blame should be placed at the feet of Gaetz and his allies: “You need to put your country ahead of your own personal hatred. Man, you gotta get control of it, brother. But he won’t. If we lose the next election, in part, it’s on these guys. And I don’t just mean the House and the Senate. I mean the presidency.”
In the alternative-media MAGA fever swamps, however, McCarthy getting axed was a moment of victory. “Obviously an incredible day,” said former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who frequently hosts Gaetz on his show. “Today was a historic and epic battle,” he added. QAnon pushing Gen. Michael Flynn praised Gaetz directly, calling him a “man of historic consequence in a time of US History that demands great leaders.” Trump superfan and far-right activist Laura Loomer called McCarthy’s defeat a “great day for MAGA and a major blow to the Uniparty,” while attacking Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) as a “phony” who voted to protect McCarthy and “betrayed MAGA.”
Greene was relatively subdued in her comments, writing on X that “we need serious change” and that there is currently “no plan and no one capable even stepping up.”
Many of her colleagues were a little more specific, and more colorful in expressing their outrage. Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) called for Gaetz to be expelled from the House GOP. “I’d love to have [him] out of the conference,” he told CNN. Rep. Marcus J. Molinaro (R-N.Y.) told CNN he has “no tolerance for some pseudo psycho political fetish.” Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) said Gaetz is either “a fool or a liar.” Rep. Erin Houchin (R-Ind.) called him a “chaos agent.”
Gaetz was also criticized for fundraising off of his ploy to oust McCarthy. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) lambasted the members of his party who’d voted with Gaetz. “If you’re voting with every single Democrat in the House to oust a Republican Speaker, it’s not about winning for your constituents. It’s not about winning for conservatives. Based on all the fundraising emails we are seeing, it’s only about personal attention,” he wrote.
In a floor speech before the vote Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) went so far as to pull out his phone and show the chamber fundraising text messages from Gaetz. “Using official actions to raise money? It’s disgusting. It’s what is disgusting about Washington,” Graves said.
Throughout it all, Gaetz has remained defiant. Speaking to reporters in the aftermath of the vote, the Florida congressman mocked his colleagues. “The stages of grief are in progress right now with some of my colleagues. There was a stage of denial. And I’ve experienced a good amount of their anger, and now we appear to be headed toward bargaining.”