By Manu Raju, Shania Shelton and Sam Fossum, CNN
Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted in unprecedented fashion more than a month ago, railed on the Republicans who voted for his removal — and bluntly predicted that one of his detractors would lose reelection next year.
In an exclusive interview with CNN in his new office on Thursday, McCarthy said that GOP Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina didn’t deserve to be reelected in her competitive district next year — and he questioned the wisdom of his GOP critics for following the lead of Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, whom he accused of leading the charge out of retaliation for an ethics complaint he is facing.
McCarthy, who has kept his powder mostly dry since Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana won the speakership after a chaotic 22-day episode following his ouster, made clear Thursday that he hasn’t forgotten about the eight Republicans who voted to make him the first speaker in history to lose his job by a vote on the floor.
McCarthy referred to six of his GOP detractors as “disruptors,” and said he was particularly surprised that Mace and Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett joined Gaetz in the effort to oust him. And McCarthy said the Republican Party would benefit “tremendously” if Gaetz was no longer a member of the House, saying there should be “consequences” for his action.
“People have to earn the right to be here. And I just think from – I mean he’ll admit to you personally. He doesn’t have a conservative bent in his philosophy. And just the nature of what he focuses on,” McCarthy said.
He said that it’s up to the conference if the House GOP should consider expelling Gaetz and added he doesn’t “believe the conference will ever heal if there’s no consequences for the action.”
In response, Gaetz shot back.
“Thoughts and prayers to the former speaker as he works through his grief,” Gaetz told CNN.
McCarthy also said he thinks Mace will lose reelection now and doesn’t “think she’ll probably have earned the right to get reelected.”
“If you’ve watched her, just her philosophy, and the flip-flopping, I don’t believe she wins reelection,” McCarthy said.
Mace, who is running for a third term next November, responded to McCarthy’s sharp criticism, saying that she’s more popular now than ever in her district as she touted her “independent voice” and brushed aside the former speaker’s implication that she needs his money to win reelection.
“I mean, this was a guy who lied all the time, like every day. I mean, he told conservatives he was absolutely gonna impeach Joe Biden. Two hours later, the same day, told moderates that he would never impeach Joe Biden, a guy like that can’t lead our country. And we’ve moved on to a much better speaker who’s honest and trustworthy and is going to tell the truth,” she told CNN.
McCarthy, as speaker, never publicly ruled out impeaching Biden as he greenlit a formal inquiry.
Mace downplayed McCarthy’s past fundraising help in her previous runs.
“I raise $6 million every two years for my reelection campaign. I know exactly how to raise money. I know exactly how to run – women can run and women can win, Kevin McCarthy – surprise.”
In the interview, McCarthy said he was surprised by Burchett as well, calling his vote to oust him “out of nature.”
“They care a lot about press, not about policy, and so they seem to just want the press and the personality,” McCarthy said.
Asked to respond, Burchett said McCarthy was “bitter.”
“He belittled my faith and I just, I didn’t see that as the type of person who needed to be in leadership,” Burchett said referring to a private phone call he had with McCarthy ahead of the vote to oust him.
McCarthy has previously said he didn’t intend to offend the Tennessee Republican.
“He’s angry and I’m sure he’ll be angry for the rest of his life, but I always, when people do something like he did I always wonder why they don’t look at themselves,” Burchett said. “It’s always that they’re gonna blame somebody else.”
Burchett added: “He’ll enter into a successful job in lobbying.”
McCarthy says hard-right doesn’t have stomach to oust Johnson
In the interview, McCarthy said he thinks Johnson would be safe and not pushed out of the speakership, even if he relies on Democratic votes to avoid a government shutdown the way McCarthy did in September when the House passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded until mid-November.
“You get a honeymoon,” McCarthy said on how Johnson won’t have to confront the same problems the former speaker had.
“But it was personal, it was about an ethics complaint,” McCarthy said, accusing Gaetz of leading the push to oust him over a House ethics probe he is facing. “And they can’t go through it again. I mean, think about how long it took last time. So do you think they would do that again? I don’t think – I think that Democrats also realize that it wouldn’t be smart for the body itself.”
McCarthy added: “We’re gonna have to heal ourselves to be able to serve the people.”
Asked what gave him the confidence that Republicans wouldn’t seek to oust Johnson, McCarthy responded: “Who are you going to replace him with?”
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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