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What exactly did McCarthy promise to become speaker?

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, the epitome of Florida Man, put Speaker Kevin McCarthy on notice Tuesday. In a floor speech, Gaetz alleged that McCarthy is “out of compliance” with the “agreement” McCarthy made with hardliners during his bid for the top House position. Over four long days and 15 votes in early January, McCarthy made concession after concession to the extortionists before finally getting the speaker’s gavel.

Now Gaetz says McCarthy must “dust off our written January agreement” and “begin to comply” with it, or face being ousted. Or, rather, McCarthy must face Gaetz attempting and failing to oust him when Gaetz can’t muster enough votes against McCarthy, and/or he fails to find another sap willing to take the speaker’s chair. What’s striking about Gaetz’s statement isn’t the threat—that’s par for the course with him. What stands out are the things he says McCarthy agreed to back in January.

There are the concessions Gaetz mentions that were public during the process: votes on term limits, a balanced budget, and as Gaetz says, “No continuing resolutions, individual spending bills or bust.”

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Then Gaetz lists a bunch of things that were not included in any reporting about the agreement: the full release of the Jan. 6 tapes, accountability for the “Biden crime family,” subpoenas for Hunter Biden, and finally, “the impeachment for Joe Biden that he so richly deserves.”

Curious, huh? It’s enough to again call into question whether there was really a “secret addendum” to the agreement that McCarthy swore doesn’t exist, but that a number of other Republicans said they saw. Both Axios and Punchbowl News reported that “multiple GOP aides and members” confirmed that the addendum with “the most controversial concessions” made by McCarthy exists. At the time, people assumed it was about promising various plum committee spots to the hardliners. But was that all?

Gaetz is an experienced and well-known liar, so anything he says has to be taken with at least a grain of salt, if not a bucketful. Gaetz says it’s “written” and McCarthy has a copy, so unless and until it’s made public, we have no way of knowing for sure.

But time and again, McCarthy has made all sorts of conflicting promises, telling people what they want to hear in order to get their votes. During the debt ceiling negotiations, McCarthy was promising the rank-and-file one thing and the Freedom Caucus holdouts another. Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ken Buck just explained how McCarthy “has made promises” on spending levels, on the continuing resolution, and on impeachment “to different groups.” And for McCarthy right now, “it is all coming due at the same time.”

This is something the rest of the Republican conference—especially the 18 members elected in Biden-supporting districts—should be demanding to know more about. Exactly what did McCarthy promise in order to get his speakership, and who did he make these promises to? That would be a good thing for them to know before they follow him down this ridiculous impeachment rabbit hole—and put their own reelection in jeopardy.


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September 2023