House Speaker McCarthy defends leadership, says Gaetz has 'personal' issues

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters during a press briefing about a looming shutdown of the U.S. government at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. September 29, 2023.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday lashed out at Rep. Matt Gaetz, saying the fellow Republican lawmaker has “personal things in his life that he has challenges with.”

McCarthy threw that jab on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” one day after Gaetz moved to oust him as the leader of the House.

McCarthy accused Gaetz of harboring a grudge over the speaker’s refusal to quash a congressional ethics complaint against him that is related to allegations of sexual misconduct.

“He wants me to try to wipe that away,” McCarthy said. “I’m not going to do that. That’s illegal. And you know what? If some way I lose my job because I uphold the law [and the] continuity of government, so be it.”

Gaetz on Monday night filed a resolution that seeks to remove McCarthy as speaker. Gaetz’s move came two days after McCarthy, with Democratic support, passed a stopgap funding bill that avoided a government shutdown.

McCarthy won the gavel in January after 14 failed votes and overcoming opposition from a conservative bloc led by Gaetz. McCarthy granted concessions to Gaetz’s clique, including allowing any individual lawmaker to file a motion to vacate.

“Matt Gaetz had planned to do this from the very beginning,” McCarthy said.

“He has personal things in his life that he has challenges with. That’s fine,” McCarthy said. But “this is just confusing in the process” of keeping the government funded beyond the next few weeks, he said.

The House Ethics Committee, which is led by Republicans, in July re-opened an investigation into allegations against Gaetz, including sexual misconduct and drug use, CNN reported.

A spokesman for Gaetz did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on McCarthy’s remarks.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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