Tensions flare inside House GOP as they barrel toward government shutdown

Tensions are flaring inside the House Republican conference as they barrel toward a government shutdown, with the infighting spilling out into public view and growing increasingly nasty.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida has been at the center of much of the drama, attacking Speaker Kevin McCarthy in personal terms. But he’s also engaged in social media spats with fellow hardline conservatives who helped broker a House GOP plan to fund the government first revealed on Sunday evening.

Rep. Byron Donalds, also a Florida Republican, shot back at Gaetz’s criticism of the plan, writing on social media: “Matt, tell the people the truth. … What’s your plan to get the votes to defund Jack Smith? You’ll need more than tweets and hot takes!!”

Rep. Chip Roy, a conservative from Texas who helped reach the deal, also slammed hardliners’ opposition, saying on a conservative radio show: “I don’t know whether we’ll have the votes or not, because I’ve got a lot of conservative friends who like to beat their chests and thump around going, ‘Oh, this isn’t pure enough.’ “

Even if the plan passed the House, it would most likely be dead on arrival in the Democratically controlled Senate. But McCarthy will need support from virtually all of his conference in order to pass the brokered deal through the narrowly divided House. McCarthy can only afford to lose four GOP votes on a continuing resolution deal without relying on Democrats.

Meanwhile, Rep. Victoria Spartz, an Indiana Republican, put out a statement Monday blasting McCarthy as “weak” and saying they need party leadership who wants to fight for the country, not just fight for “power and a picture on the wall.”

McCarthy, in response, told reporters: “One thing I learned in life: anybody who criticizes you has never worked harder than you. If Victoria is concerned about fighting stronger I wish she would run again and not quit. I mean, I’m not quitting. I’m going to continue work for the American public.”

Spartz has previously announced she will not seek reelection for her House seat.

Gaetz then went on social media and called McCarthy’s comments “disgraceful” and accused the speaker of “attacking” women.

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has also been forceful in pushing back on her GOP colleagues who are supporting the government funding plan. She posted a lengthy video refuting Donalds, who called Greene’s understanding of the bill “wrong.”

Greene also blasted out inflammatory social media posts – and “Shrek” memes – to lambast support for Ukraine funding and criticized her colleagues who wore Ukraine pins to show support for the war-torn nation. Gaetz, too, seemed to mock McCarthy for wearing a Ukraine pin by posting a picture of the speaker wearing one, which was then shared by Rep. Eli Crane, a conservative Arizona Republican.

The messy infighting shows the challenge McCarthy is facing as he works to wrangle the votes to avoid a government shutdown, protect his speakership, and deal with the tricky optics of Ukraine funding while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Capitol Hill this week.

Rep. Steve Womack, a Republican from Arkansas, summed up the situation on NBC’s “MTP Daily” on Monday: “It’s an unmitigated disaster right now on the majority side.”

Donalds, weighing in on the infighting, told reporters as he left a meeting in McCarthy’s office that “Politics, it can get brutal sometimes. That’s just part of it.”

“But you know, that’s why I have Kevlar skin. I don’t have thick skin, it’s Kevlar,” said Donalds, wearing a pair of black aviator sunglasses indoors. “So, if you want to bring the attacks, bring it on. I’m ready.”

Tensions have been boiling over since Republicans returned from a six-week recess. Gaetz had taken his criticism of McCarthy to the House floor threatening to oust the California Republican from his speakership, using a process called the motion to vacate. McCarthy had a heated closed-door conference meeting last Thursday, daring his critics to proceed.

“Move the f***ing motion,” he said, according to four sources in the room.

On Monday evening, McCarthy sounded a more optimistic tone after meeting with Republican factions of his conference, colloquially referred to around Capitol Hill as “the five families.”

“I’m always more confident! Life is good,” McCarthy told reporters when asked if he feels more confident after the meeting.

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