Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is weighing whether to stay in office after his unprecedented ouster as speaker — even though he believes he doesn’t deserve to lose his job and he’s still angry at the Republicans who effectively ended his nine-month tenure as House Speaker. .
In an exclusive interview with CNN, McCarthy made it clear that he missed being “at the table,” even though he promised to help the new speaker; went further in his embrace of former President Donald Trump as 2024 approaches; and questioned whether the Republican “crazy eight” who voted to take the gavel away from him are even conservatives.
The California Republican reserved his harshest attacks for Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who led the charge for McCarthy’s ouster. McCarthy has continually accused Gaetz of only pursuing him because of a House Ethics Committee investigation he faces, a charge that GOP hardliners have repeatedly denied.
“I don’t believe they’re conservative,” McCarthy said of the eight Republicans. “It was Gaetz who pushed it, and it was all based on an ethics complaint filed last Congress. He would throw his country in the trash to try to protect himself from what would turn out to be the truth.
McCarthy suggested that Gaetz called for the vote to impeach McCarthy — and then supported Mike Johnson’s ascension to the presidency — simply to quash the ethics investigation.
“If the ethics committee never does anything to Gaetz, then Gaetz has probably succeeded in stopping what rightfully should happen to him,” McCarthy said.
While McCarthy called on Gaetz to face “consequences,” accusing him of violating the internal rules of the House Republican Conference by calling the ouster vote without the required support from Republicans, Johnson did not appear not go in that direction.
Asked if he was concerned about Johnson’s approach to Gaetz, McCarthy replied: “That’s a question for President Johnson.” I don’t know if they made any deals for voting or something. I do not believe that. But I will let ethics do their job.
Johnson’s office declined to comment, while Gaetz brushed off the attacks.
“Thoughts and prayers to the former speaker as he works through his grief,” Gaetz said.
McCarthy, who has gone from being the most powerful Republican in Washington to a rank-and-file member not driving his party’s agenda, plans to serve out the remainder of his term, aides say. But he made clear in the interview that he might drop his re-election bid.
“I had the holidays. I’ll talk to my family about the ideas of what’s going forward, and then I’ll make a decision,” McCarthy told CNN while sitting in his small office, where he noted that’s where Harry Truman played cards after being told he would. became president in 1945 after the death of Franklin Roosevelt.
Still, McCarthy seemed uncertain about remaining in the House.
“Well, there are lots of ways to go about it to make sure you get the job done. And I will look at all options,” he added.
Asked whether he was leaning toward remaining in Congress or choosing a new path, McCarthy said, “I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy’s removal as president could ripple through the Republican Party’s pocketbook.
During his time as GOP leader and then party chairman, he was a fundraising heavyweight for the party, raising $637 million for its two affiliated outside groups, the Congressional Leadership Fund and the American Action Network. And federal records show McCarthy raised $78 million for four of his fundraising entities this year alone.
While Johnson has already taken steps to strengthen his fundraising appeal — and as the Republican Party committee touts strong fundraising since his election to the presidency — the Louisiana Republican reached out to McCarthy for help to present it to big donors.
“The speaker called me last night to ask if I was going to an event,” McCarthy said Thursday. “I’m going to do everything I can to present it to people… because it’s for the conference and for the country itself.”
But McCarthy has maintained a low profile since Johnson’s election, saying he has not attended GOP conference meetings “because I don’t want people looking at me” as the new president begins his term.
McCarthy told CNN he has not spoken to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries since his ouster, although the two enjoyed a cordial relationship during his tenure as speaker – before the New York Democrat does not vote for his impeachment.
And he dismissed the concerns of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who lost valuable Capitol office space after giving the green light to evict her from the space.
“Well, now you have a new former president,” he said. “This is the problem.”
McCarthy also accused Pelosi of breaking her word when it came to the motion to oust her.
“Before I was elected, I still had difficulty getting votes, which she also had. And I told him the problem was bringing back this motion to quash. And the first thing she said: “Give it to them.” Just give it to them. We will never allow this. It’s not good for the House,” McCarthy said of Pelosi. “Look, at the end of the day the Democrats decided to make a political decision.”
Aaron Bennett, Pelosi’s spokesman, called McCarthy’s comments “absurd.”
“Speaker Pelosi has made it clear – to McCarthy and everyone – that she values the dignity of the House,” Bennett said. “Recognizing that Hakeem Jeffries is our presidential candidate, Speaker Pelsoi told McCarthy that we would follow his example.”
But it was McCarthy’s acquiescence to the far right that ultimately failed him. As he struggled to secure the votes to be elected president in January — ultimately securing the position after 15 rounds — he agreed to lower the threshold to allow just one member to become president. calling for a vote to oust a sitting president, a departure from the threshold set under Pelosi, which had made calling for such a vote much more difficult.
Asked if he thought he would spend two years as president, McCarthy said, “I never knew.” »
McCarthy credited Trump for winning the gavel. But in recent months, he has come under pressure from Trump’s team when he appeared to question whether he would be the best candidate for the Republican Party.
In the interview, McCarthy predicted that the former president would be the party’s nominee next year and said he would support him.
“I have not endorsed, but I support President Trump,” he said.
McCarthy has repeatedly defended the former president despite countless controversies and told CNN he is not concerned about Trump’s criminal charges as 2024 approaches.
McCarthy said that “with most candidates you would worry about things like that,” but not when it comes to Trump. But he acknowledged that it “might hurt a little” when it comes to Trump’s standing among suburban or island voters: “But Biden is in a worse situation, right?
McCarthy also made clear he had few regrets — and would not change his decision, on the eve of a government shutdown, to advance a stopgap funding bill that needed Democratic support to become law. Gaetz cited the decision as the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“I would do the exact same thing to keep our government open, to fund our troops,” McCarthy said before attacking the eight Republicans.
“This country is too big to have ideas as small as those eight,” McCarthy said.
And he continued to question Gaetz’s motives.
“He doesn’t have a conservative streak in his philosophy, just the nature of what he focuses on,” McCarthy said of Gaetz, recalling an incident in which the 41-year-old Florida Republican discussed what motivates him.
“The TV MP, that’s what he wants to be known for.”
Haley Talbot and Shania Shelton contributed to this report.