I’m gonna be charitable and assume that Gaetz doesn’t really support this exceedingly stupid idea. It’s something he’s saying to impress Trump, like 90 percent of the things of he says. Watch, then read on.
Matt Gaetz wants Mitt Romney expelled from the Republican Party: "I don't know what the difference is between Mitt Romney and a Democrat at this point" pic.twitter.com/W1oDyUPVNV
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) February 7, 2020
I just gone done writing a post about another politician who let her pique towards an enemy lead her into doing something foolish that could weaken her majority. Mitch McConnell would never be so stupid as to hand an already independent-minded Republican senator an excuse to vote more frequently with Democrats by ejecting him from the caucus. It’s not like he has a 25-seat margin over Senate Democrats. He needs every vote he can get.
In fact, he made that point himself on Wednesday when asked about Romney’s defection:
“I think Senator Romney has been largely supportive of most everything we’ve tried to accomplish,” he told reporters shortly after the vote.
Asked how long Romney would be in the doghouse, McConnell laughed and added: “We don’t have any doghouses here. The most important vote is the next vote.”
And that’s why he’s one of the most effective majority leaders in Senate history. That line, right there.
What McConnell also knows, and what Gaetz probably knows, is that Romney had been a good soldier for the party since joining the Senate until Wednesday. Frank Luntz noticed Gaetz’s comments last night and flagged this handy FiveThirtyEight chart tracking how often senators on both sides have voted in line with Trump’s own position on various issues. Romney clocks in at 78.8 percent, not wildly different from MAGA fan Josh Hawley’s 84.8 percent. There are four Republican senators with worse scores than him, including the “good” senator from Utah, Mike Lee. In fact, per FiveThirtyEight, Romney votes with Trump slightly more often than you’d expect him to given Trump’s margin of victory in his home state in 2016.
As Luntz said, if Romney’s a “Democrat,” presumably so are the four GOPers who support Trump less often than he does. Which means Chuck Schumer has … a Senate majority?
You can read Gaetz’s comments here in one of two ways. (Or both, I guess. They’re not mutually exclusive.) It could be that he’s just enforcing the rules of Trump-era Republicanism while elder statesman Mitch McConnell is stuck in the past, enforcing pre-Trump rules. To McConnell, the point of the Republican Party is advancing a conservative agenda. To Gaetz, it’s enforcing personal loyalty to Donald Trump. Romney is of use to McConnell but not to Gaetz so expulsion is no big deal to the latter.
Or it could be that Gaetz is trying to get out of a “doghouse” of his own with a little light demagoguery of one of the president’s most despised enemies. The irony of him attacking Romney is that Gaetz himself landed on Trump’s sh*t list recently for having the balls to cast a righteous lonely vote of his own, against the Republican tide in the House. That came last month when he supported Pelosi’s resolution to limit the president’s power to go to war with Iran without congressional approval. That was commendable, and Gaetz felt so strongly about his position that his staff took to lobbying other House Republicans to join him in crossing the aisle. In the end only two did, but he stood his ground — and ended up being blackballed by the White House from the impeachment trial for his surprising show of disloyalty.
Gaetz (R-Fla.) was in the mix to become one of Trump’s impeachment advisers, a group of House Republicans who are expected to assist the White House with messaging and strategy throughout the Senate impeachment trial. But Gaetz — a conservative firebrand who caught Trump’s eye through his feisty appearances and memorable sound bites on cable news — did not make the final list, which comprises eight other House Republicans…
“I don’t know why it would serve someone in the White House to manufacture a divide between the president and one of his best communicators during impeachment,” Gaetz said in an interview.
When asked to respond to Gaetz’s allegations, [White House legislative affairs director Eric] Ueland did not comment directly. But he did mention Gaetz’s support for a House resolution to halt further U.S. military action against Iran.
In the wake of that, Gaetz could have held his tongue about Romney, knowing how difficult it can be for a legislator to cast a vote on principle that’s likely to earn Trump’s wrath. Or he could have done what he did, seizing the opportunity to bash him in extravagant ways in order to atone to the president and re-pledge his fealty. His dopey idea about filing ethics charges against Pelosi for tearing up her copy of Trump’s SOTU speech is part of the same strategy. If Gaetz was obsequious towards the president before his gutsy Iran vote, he’ll just have to be twice as obsequious afterward in order to return to Trump’s good graces. He’s on his way.