Tensions erupt between McCarthy and Gaetz at closed-door House GOP meeting as shutdown nears

Tensions erupt between McCarthy and Gaetz at closed-door House GOP meeting as shutdown nears


Tensions erupted as House Republicans met behind closed-doors on Thursday, the latest sign of deep divisions and infighting as the House GOP conference has failed to coalesce around a plan to avert a shutdown.

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz and Speaker Kevin McCarthy got into a testy exchange during the meeting, according to a source in the room. Gaetz stood up and confronted McCarthy about whether his allies were paying conservative influencers to bash Gaetz in social media posts – an allegation circulating on social media and one the speaker’s office has denied.

McCarthy’s response, according to the source in the room, was that he wouldn’t waste his time or money on Gaetz. Another source said McCarthy also shot back that he doesn’t know what Gaetz is spending time on, but he (the speaker) is donating $5 million to help keep the majority.

“I asked him whether or not he was paying those influencers to post negative things about me online,” Gaetz told CNN’s Manu Raju – and confirmed that McCarthy said he wouldn’t waste time on him.

McCarthy and Gaetz have long had a tense relationship and Gaetz has led the charge in threatening to force a vote to oust the speaker as pressure on McCarthy builds during the shutdown spending fight and hardline conservatives balk at the prospect of passing any kind of short-term funding extension to keep the government opening.

After the exchange, members in the room could be heard complaining about Gaetz, with one member calling him a “scumbag” and another saying “F**k off,” according to a third source in the room.

McCarthy’s outside counsel earlier this week sent a cease and desist letter to the person soliciting influencers to bash Gaetz and claiming to be doing so on behalf of McCarthy, according to a copy of the letter obtained by CNN.

With only three days to go before government funding expires, House Republican divisions have been on full display with the conference at odds over the path forward as Congress barrels toward a shutdown.

The Senate has put together a bipartisan proposal to avert a shutdown and is working to advance it through the chamber to final passage. But House Republicans have thrown cold water on that plan, leaving the two chambers at an impasse.

Instead, McCarthy is gearing up to have the chamber vote on a GOP stopgap bill, but he appears to lack the votes to pass the measure.

House Republicans are planning late night votes Thursday on a series of spending bills, though they may not have enough GOP support to pass and would be dead on arrival in the Senate.

If some or all of the bills fail, it could provoke another chaotic scene on the House floor, but GOP leadership believes if that happens it could also demonstrate that a short-term funding extension is the only viable path forward as a number of hardline conservatives continue to say they are opposed to a stopgap bill to avert a shutdown.

And despite the fact that House GOP leadership does not currently have the votes for their short-term spending bill, the plan remains that the House will vote tomorrow on a measure, three sources told CNN.

McCarthy has been saying all week this was the plan but as the hardliners have dug in, it remained an open question if he’d go through with it, risk a potentially embarrassing vote and be seen as unable to pass a bill out of his chamber before a Saturday midnight deadline.

One of the four individual spending bills set to hit the floor could be pulled given significant opposition, according to a Republican aide.

A bill focused on the Department of Agriculture and other priorities may not get a vote given issues over a provision that would limit access to an abortion pill and the amount of spending cuts in the legislation.

“It’s in the ICU,” one GOP aide told CNN.

Meanwhile, the Senate is working to advance a bipartisan stopgap bill that would keep the government open through November 17 and provide additional aid to Ukraine and disaster relief. McCarthy has so far dismissed that bill.

It could take until Monday to pass the Senate’s bill to keep the government open if GOP Sen. Rand Paul slows down the process over his demand that the bill drop the $6.2 billion in aid to Ukraine it contains, according to senators. That would put it past the Saturday evening shutdown deadline.

GOP senators are trying to cut a deal to give Paul an amendment vote in exchange to let the process speed up. Any one senator can slow down the process, and it takes unanimous support to expedite a vote in the chamber.

The Senate took a procedural vote to advance the bipartisan stopgap bill on Thursday, though it’s still not clear when a final passage vote will take place. The vote was 76 to 22.

As the September 30 shutdown deadline rapidly approaches, the federal government has begun preparing for its effects.

A shutdown could have enormous impacts across the country, in consequential areas ranging from air travel to clean drinking water, as many government operations would come to a halt, while services deemed “essential” would continue.

The nearly 4 million Americans who are federal employees will feel the effect immediately. Essential workers will remain on the job, but others will be furloughed until the shutdown is over. None will be paid during the impasse. For many, a shutdown would strain their finances, as it did during the record 35-day funding lapse in 2018-2019.

Democratic and Republicans alike have been highlighting the potential impacts of a shutdown as they warn against a lapse in funding.

“It’s important to remember that if we shut down the government – for those of us who are concerned about the border and want it to be improved – the border patrol … have to continue to work for nothing,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a news conference Wednesday.

US Border Patrol agents are considered essential and will continue to perform their law enforcement functions, including apprehending migrants crossing the border unlawfully, during a government shutdown – but without pay.

The White House is sounding alarms about massive disruptions to air travel as tens of thousands of air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration personnel work without pay. During the 2019 shutdown, hundreds of TSA officers called out from work – many of them to find other ways to make money.

The White House has warned that a shutdown could risk “significant delays for travelers” across the country.

The White House has also warned of impacts to national security, including the 1.3 million active-duty troops who would not get paid during a shutdown.

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