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McCarthy says Gaetz ‘belongs in jail’ in latest spat between Republican enemies

McCarthy says Gaetz ‘belongs in jail’ in latest spat between Republican enemies

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said his colleague GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz "belongs in jail" in a recent interview.

Mr McCarthy – whose ousting from his position as speaker was led by Mr Gaetz — was commenting on the quality of Florida's House GOP congressional members when he made the comment.

“You have a cross section,” Mr McCarthy said, according to Politico. “You have [Representative Matt] Gaetz, who belongs in jail, and you have serious members.”

It's unclear exactly why Mr McCarthy believes Mr Gaetz should be in prison.

Mr Gaetz dismissed Mr McCarthy's comment, chalking it up to his ego being bruised.

“Tough words from a guy who sucker punches people in the back. The only assault I committed was against Kevin’s fragile ego,” he said.

The Florida congressman was referencing a claim made by Congressman Tim Burchett — who also voted to oust the former House speaker — that Mr McCarthy elbowed him.

“I prayed for him this morning because I know he’s hurting,” Mr Burchett said in response to the incident during a CNN interview. “It’s just a sad commentary on his life. I’m sorry for him. I really am. I feel sorry for him.”

Whether or not Mr McCarthy actually tossed an elbow Mr Burchett's way, it's clear the former House speaker has no qualms about speaking freely when it comes to those behind his ouster.

That may be because he is reportedly considering leaving Congress.

On Thursday, Axios reported that Mr McCarthy is considering leaving Congress before his term is finished.

At a New York Times event, Mr McCarthy said he had "another week or so to decide" if he he wants to run for another term, saying he needed to know "in my heart I'm giving it 110 per cent" in order to run.

However, he reportedly told private donors that he was excited to "get the hell out" of Congress. Axios cited an anonymous source close to the conversation in its reporting.

Speculation over his possible departure kicked off over the Thanksgiving recess when he posted a photo to Instagram that appeared to show his office in the process of being packed up.

If Mr McCarthy does leave, it could put the House GOP in a tough position; Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom could choose to hold Mr McCarthy's seat open if he resigns, and the GOP may vote to expel Congressman George Santos from Congress as early as this Friday.

The GOP only enjoys a thin majority in the House, with a nine-vote edge over Democrats. That means party cohesion — which the House GOP is struggling to maintain — is critical to passing or blocking legislation, and will only become more difficult for Republicans if they lose two seats.