House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) quite clearly intends to become the next Speaker of the House once his Republican Party reclaims majority control of Congress, most likely following the upcoming midterm elections in November.
That goal may be in peril, however, after audiotapes were leaked of McCarthy speaking critically of certain Trump-supporting GOP House members in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in 2021, The Hill reported.
The future leadership role of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) could be in jeopardy as well, as he is also heard on the tapes echoing and expanding upon McCarthy’s critiques of specific members of the House Republican Caucus.
Rep. Gaetz called out over critiques of Rep. Cheney
It was The New York Times that managed to obtain and publish recordings of a conference call on Jan. 10, 2021, involving McCarthy and Scalise and other members of the House GOP leadership team, which at that time still included virulently anti-Trump Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).
“These members on either, whatever position you are, calling out other members, that stuff’s got to stop, especially in this nature,” McCarthy reportedly said on the call. “Tension is too high. The country is too crazy. I do not want to look back and think we caused something or we missed something and someone got hurt. I don’t want to play politics with any of that.”
McCarthy, as well as Scalise, went on to single out at least four specific GOP members of the House, first and foremost Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump who had been sharply critical of Cheney’s siding with Democrats to blame Trump for the Capitol riot.
The Minority Leader surmised that Gaetz was “putting people in jeopardy” with his remarks against Cheney and Scalise even pondered whether things Gaetz had said were “potentially illegal.”
Reps. Brooks, Moore, and Gohmert also singled out
Also drawing fire from the Republican leadership team was Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who had addressed the crowd with a fiery speech at the rally just before the riot, and it was suggested that he potentially be stripped of his committee assignments as punishment.
Then there was Rep. Barry Moore (R-AL), who drew criticism over his continued objections to the 2020 election results as well as remarks he made about the Capitol Police officer suspected of shooting an unarmed protester named Ashli Babbitt during the riot.
Finally, McCarthy and Scalise called out Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) for his allegedly “incendiary” remarks made in the days before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“Problematic” comments should have been handled privately, Rep. Biggs said
ABC News reported that many House Republicans, asked to respond to the leaked tapes of McCarthy, either defended him or took a sort of “wait and see” attitude concerning whether he would apologize or further explain his critiques, to say nothing of whether they might vote for or against his likely bid to be named Speaker next year.
Gaetz, however, issued a statement in which he labeled both McCarthy and Scalise as “weak men, not leaders,” and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), former leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said the leader’s remarks about fellow members were “problematic” and should have been handled directly with the individuals named at that time, not kept secret and later leaked as a “distraction” in a vital election year.