CNN anchor Jake Tapper came to Matt Gaetz’s defense on Wednesday, after the bombastic Florida congressman waged war on Top House Republican Kevin McCarthy to become speaker of the House of Representatives, and also after an apparent rejection by Gaetz for a committee post he coveted.
Gaetz – a leading figure on the far right who has led a campaign to remove McCarthy from the post of spokesman – has sought to break the hardliners’ blockade of the post by trying to wring a number of concessions from McCarthy in order to to become a speaker.
Gaetz, in particular, is reportedly set to chair a House Armed Services subcommittee, while fellow Maryland congressman Andy Harris — an ardent opponent of legalized abortion and marijuana — has sought a position that gives him leadership over the health-care budget – and would provide social services.
McCarthy – who has already conceded numerous points with his party’s right wing in recent years – reportedly refused, prompting hardliners such as the House Freedom Caucus to drag the Speaker’s election into a multi-day affair that was a significant one for McCarthy The new Republican-led Congress was a humiliation.
However, Tapper says Gaetz has every right to do so.
In a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon following McCarthy’s fifth losing election to the oratorium, Tapper — the longtime Beltway pundit — disagreed with some of his colleagues who criticized Gaetz for the tactics, saying Gaetz’s efforts are quintessential DC policy.
He pointed to the example of the contested Senate Majority Leader race in 1994 between Senators Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a highly contentious affair that ultimately amounted to a single vote.
What won Daschle the win – and the seat he would hold for a full decade – was his ability to wield only one vote, Carol Moseley Brauns, by promising her his seat on the Senate Treasury Committee, making her the first woman who ever belonged to a committee long defined by “arrogant, rich” whites.
“Let me play devil’s advocate here,” Tapper began. “[…] That’s not new. I’m sorry. I understand Matt Gaetz is outrageous in many ways. But the call for the chairmanship of an armed forces subcommittee does not anger me.”
But there are other precedents where Tapper didn’t closely tie this track to the McCarthy saga — particularly as he and other party leaders faced scrutiny of their messages in a disappointing 2022 mid-election cycle.
After the Republican majority shrunk to single digits in another disappointing 1998 election year, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich — the charismatic leader of a new conservative movement — was nearly forced to resign in the face of a Republican conference that rebelled against him .
While McCarthy still has the support of a majority of his conference, he still hasn’t managed to attract the numbers needed for a win. After his fifth loss as of Wednesday night, members of Congress reportedly met behind closed doors to negotiate a compromise on speakership to break the deadlock.
Meanwhile, figures like Gaetz were reportedly willing to negotiate a deal with “anyone” except McCarthy.
At the end of the day, the story just goes like this: McCarthy couldn’t win the speakership alone.
“Another day, another lie from Kevin McCarthy,” Gaetz tweeted after reports that McCarthy appeared willing to negotiate a deal with Democrats to break the standoff. “A few weeks ago, Kevin McCarthy promised me and the entire House Republican group that he would not seek Democratic votes to secure the Speaker’s office.
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