A long-standing political “sibling” rivalry could be at the root of the latest fight to avoid a government shutdown. Here’s what’s behind the battle between two Republicans desperate to win Donald Trump’s favor.
A Soul-Sucking Job
Kevin McCarthy had to sell bits and pieces of his political soul to win the Speaker’s gavel when Republicans took over the U.S. House of Representatives in January of 2023.
Can’t Afford a Misstep
Making promises left and right, McCarthy put himself on a political tightrope that he’s been toeing all year long.
A Steep Price
Those promises were enough to land him the gig, but they came with a huge price tag.
He Wore Them Down
First up were the four bloody days of debate and maneuvering that led to 15 ballots before McCarthy finally got what he wanted.
Not Conservative Enough
One of the major roadblocks McCarthy faced was a conservative uprising among his fellow Republicans.
They thought he was weak on the issues that matter to them most and vowed to keep him out of the top seat.
Gaetz Is No Fan
The most outspoken and visible McCarthy critic among Republicans was Matt Gaetz, who eventually ended up abstaining from the final vote.
A History of Bad Blood
Turns out, the bad blood between the men didn’t start with the struggle for house power.
And it shows no signs of ending, even months into the Republicans’ run at the helm of half the country’s legislative branch.
Blame the Don
As detailed in a report from Politico as the government headed toward a potential shutdown on October 1, Gaetz and McCarthy have been butting heads since Donald Trump was in office.
They Had His Ear
According to insiders who are familiar with the situation, both men were able to gain some measure of favor with Trump.
“Dad Likes Me Best!”
But they each wanted more of “dad’s” attention, which led to a game of petty sibling rivalry.
One of them would get Trump enthused about an idea, and the other would swoop in with a counterargument to kill that enthusiasm.
They Can’t Agree on Anything
Gaetz and McCarthy even fought over who should be on the jury for Trump’s first impeachment trial
Better Watch Your Back
Other members of congress describe acts of backstabbing and sabotage that seem more at home in spy movies.
McCarthy Extended an Olive Branch
Even though the men have been at each other’s throats for years, McCarthy has tried to foster goodwill at times, some say.
Those efforts included helping Gaetz land seats on coveted congressional committees.
Gaetz Ate the Olive
As repayment, Gaetz led the charge to block McCarthy from becoming Speaker of the House.
Power Is Dimming
And now, the stress of making so many competing promises threatens to erode McCarthy’s image and power even further.
He Had to Make Deals
As a shutdown loomed, McCarthy was forced into supporting a continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the government running.
That eventually bought congress some time but also further weakened McCarthy.
The temporary bargain with Democrats directly contradicts the promises McCarthy made in January, when he heavily criticized past CRs.
Licking His Chops
For Gaetz, that backpedaling is just the sort of opening he loves when it comes to criticizing his political rival.
How Far Will He Go?
The only question now is just how far Gaetz will take his dislike for McCarthy in the short term.
He Has Big Ambitions
With designs on the Florida Governor’s mansion, the 41-year-old Gaetz no doubt wants to continue to promote his agenda and profile as a candidate.
Staying in the Limelight
Some critics think he’d be best served in that regard by continuing to poke holes in McCarthy’s power from his public pulpit without actually firing a fatal shot.
A Fatal Political Shot?
But Gaetz has said in the aftermath of the CR that he’s going to call for McCarthy’s ouster.
If Gaetz does go for the jugular, he’d better have his ducks in a row.
Do or Die
Because, as inside observers tell Politico, that will be the time to put up or shut up.
For both men, it could be a boom or bust moment.
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