Gaetz emerges from meeting with McCarthy during GOP speakership battle, bluntly says: ‘I’m a no’

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) emerged from a tense, brief meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Monday as his bid for Speaker of the House hangs in the balance, telling reporters that he’s a definite “no” on support for the beleaguered moderate Republican.

Republicans will retake the House this week and their first agenda item is to select a speaker as the 118th Congress is set to begin at noon on Tuesday. That fight has split conservatives with a number of them digging in their heels on voting for McCarthy because he is not seen as a strong conservative even though he has the backing of former President Trump. The GOP holds 222 seats in the chamber and McCarthy needs 218 to clinch the position. He does not have the number of votes to do so as up to 14 Republicans are standing against him and Gaetz is leading the way.

Gaetz has been a very vocal opponent of McCarthy taking the speakership. He is part of the “Never Kevin” movement and is joined by GOP Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Bob Good of Virginia, Matt Rosendale of Montana, and Ralph Norman of South Carolina.

That has not deterred McCarthy from moving his furniture into the speaker’s office at the Capitol. He met briefly with Gaetz on Monday, who left the meeting telling NBC reporter Haley Talbot that he hasn’t budged on his stance against McCarthy. He called the meeting “a brief and productive discussion.”

“How was it productive?” a reporter asked Gaetz.

“Insofar that it was brief,” he responded. Gaetz was accompanied by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) who is also a fierce McCarthy critic and unlikely to support him.

Gaetz would not comment much on the pressing issue.

“Has he won your support yet, congressman?” Robert Costa of CBS News asked him.

“No,” Gaetz bluntly responded.

“Why not?” Costa further asked.

Gaetz tersely indicated he has previously explained his reasoning “extensively.”

Costa would not back off asking if he was any closer to backing McCarthy. Gaetz reiterated that the meeting was “brief and productive.”

“That’s a different tone than you’ve struck before,” CNN’s Manu Raju noted to the Republican, “You might vote for him tomorrow?”

“I’m a no,” Gaetz asserted, making it clear his mind is made up.

McCarthy has allegedly offered a number of concessions to secure the speakership but they have apparently not swayed Gaetz.

McCarthy’s ally, incoming House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, expressed confidence after leaving the meeting that he would be the next speaker.

“He’s going to be speaker,” Emmer told reporters, according to the Daily Mail.

But Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) doesn’t share that sentiment and posted a letter to his Twitter account calling for change and a shake-up in leadership.

He tweeted on Sunday night, “Nothing changes when nothing changes, and that must start from the top. Time to make the change or get out of the way.”

Multiple reports are claiming that conservatives will push Rep. Steve Scalise for the speakership position.

“He’s steadfast. He’s in this until hell freezes,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a McCarthy backer told Politico.

According to CBS, Bacon told reporters that he’s considering nominating an outgoing member of the current Congress for speaker if the “Never Kevin” Republicans push Scalise instead of McCarthy.

Biggs, one of the five original ‘Never Kevin’ Republicans, tweeted Monday, “Even after the McCarthy Machine’s attempts to whip votes and smear my name for several weeks, McCarthy is still well short of the 218 threshold. Our party still requires new leadership and I will continue to oppose McCarthy for House Speaker.”

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