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Matt Gaetz rarely ensures calm and compromise – not even in his own party

Photo: Lynne Sladky / AP

Defying strong headwinds – this is part of the job profile of a chairman of the US House of Representatives. Republican Kevin McCarthy currently holds the chair. And he – who needed 15 rounds of voting to be elected – knew from day one how many political opponents he had in his own ranks.

In recent months, one Republican in particular has repeatedly threatened to file a motion to remove McCarthy. His name is Matt Gaetz. Now he has carried out his threats. The question is: Who is this man and what drives him?

The "hardliner" from Florida

Matt Gaetz was born in the US state of Florida, where he studied history and politics before becoming a lawyer through law school. His father, Don Gaetz, served in the Florida Senate from 2006 to 2016. A year later, in 2017, Gaetz Jr. was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Hardliner" is the word that has been used since his entry into the U.S. House of Representatives to describe the man with the gelled hair. Gaetz is one of the most loyal supporters of former US President Donald Trump. His political profile is best explained by the things he opposes: same-sex marriage, abortion, aid to Ukraine.

Gaetz regularly appears at events of the ultra-right within the Republican Party – such as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), now a rallying point for right-wing nationalists, conspiracy theorists and the religious right. His voice can also be heard in the podcast of former Trump strategist Steve Bannon. There, he repeatedly spreads conspiracy theories – such as the claim that Antifa was to blame for the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Accusation: Relationship with a minor

In May 2021, the »New York Times« published a judicial investigation against Matt Gaetz. At the time, the right-wing populist MP was accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old. He should also have paid for the minors' travel. But Gaetz, who is married, denied any wrongdoing and described the allegations against him as a smear campaign. He and his father had been extorted for 25 million dollars (a good 21 million euros).

Democratic politicians called on Gaetz to resign at the time. "Stop the embarrassment now, Deputy Gaetz. Resign," Rep. Gerry Connolly wrote on Twitter. The House Ethics Committee intervened, but little happened. Also because the Ministry of Justice ultimately did not bring any charges.

Earlier this year, Gaetz was one of the rebels who refused to follow Kevin McCarthy in the election for chairman of the House of Representatives. Because Gaetz let McCarthy run, there was a never-ending drama that culminated in a scuffle between the Republicans.

Now it is Gaetz again who is dividing the Republican camp deeper with an impeachment motion against McCarthy. The reason for this was that McCarthy had previously agreed with the Democrats in the House of Representatives on a compromise to finance the US federal authorities until November 17 and did not push through the spending cuts demanded by the Gaetz camp.

Gaetz had threatened McCarthy for months with a request for his removal. After the so-called shutdown was averted, the dispute flared up again. Gaetz had declared that he had enough Republicans on his side, "so that at this point next week one of two things will happen: Kevin McCarthy will no longer be Speaker of the House of Representatives, or he will be the Speaker of the House of Representatives, working at the mercy of the Democrats."

In his days in the Florida Senate, he was still considered a compromise politician in the service of the Republicans. Now months and years lie behind him, in which he created one thing above all else in his party and American politics: chaos. In doing so, the senator has earned himself a considerable degree of attention. It is difficult to make out for what purposes he will use them with all the unrest around his person.