As Matt Gaetz leads government shutdown revolt, most Florida Republicans are ducking for cover

by | Sep 27, 2023

  • U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz is leading conservative opposition to several proposed spending plans, which could trigger a government shutdown within four days.
  • While Gaetz is at the media epicenter of the battle, he’s getting mixed reactions from Florida Republicans, with Governor Ron DeSantis backing his play, but Americans for Prosperity, a leading conservative advocacy group, is cautioning against Gaetz’s push for a shutdown.
  • With only a few notable exceptions, most high-profile Republican officials in Florida are ducking for cover, unwilling to take a public position on the matter.

With only four days left before the U.S. government risks a partial shutdown, most of Florida’s Republican leaders have decided to stay out of the high-stakes showdown between U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The battle is fraught with risk, with some saying that a government shutdown could cause widespread economic damage, while others say the damage is already done and Gaetz and his conservative faction just want to stop more runaway deficit spending.

The Capitolist reached out to nearly two dozen influential or high-ranking Republican elected officials in the Sunshine State and found that few were willing to take one side or the other, even off the record. The reticence comes as Gaetz is now in the national media crosshairs as the leading conservative pushing in the House against a controversial spending plan that would add another $2 trillion to the national debt.

The Senate advanced a measure on Tuesday with a 77-19 vote to begin debate on the short-term funding bill aimed at keeping the government going over the short term, but most political observers see that effort as purely for show, as it has little chance of passing the House. The bill included about $6 billion for domestic disaster responses and another $6 billion in aid to Ukraine. Leading House Republicans rejected the Senate’s proposal, saying that any budget that doesn’t address the country’s immigration border crisis is a non-starter.

“The Senate bill really just continues to fund Biden’s open border plan. The country wants to address the open border. We need to address the open border,” noted House Majority Leader Steve Scalise. Despite controlling the House by a narrow 221-212 margin, top Republican leaders, including Speaker McCarthy, have yet to propose their own comprehensive bill, focusing instead on passing a series of measures for the upcoming fiscal year.

But Gaetz isn’t having it.

Representing the hardline faction within the Republican Party, Gaetz criticized the monetary policy involved in the currently proposed bipartisan deals.

“We are devaluing American money so rapidly that in America today, you can’t even bribe Democrat senators with cash alone,” Gaetz said. “You need to bring the gold bars to get the job done.”

The comment was an obvious jab at Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who is facing federal bribery charges after his home was raided by the FBI, which allegedly recovered $100,000 in gold bars and even more money in cash.

Despite the deafening silence from most Florida Republican leaders, a few have poked their heads out of their political foxholes to take sides. When asked, Governor Ron DeSantis’s team pointed to his comments on the nationally syndicated Glenn Beck radio program in support of Gaetz’s effort to hold the line against runaway government spending.

“We hear a lot of talk about government shutdown, but what you have done with the debt and the borrowing and the spending is you have shut down the American dream,” DeSantis told Beck. “So if you want to continue on the status quo, you are saying that you are committed to shutting down opportunity.”

He’s not alone.

U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, who represents Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, took time out at 2am on Wednesday morning to weigh in on the fight having just leaving the House floor after a contentious debate on regulatory reforms. Her video, posted to Facebook, included remarks about the ongoing budget battle.

“Of course the White House is just saying that it’s all gonna be about MAGA Republicans and extreme Republicans,” Cammack said in the video. “Well, if getting back to a sense of regular order and putting the American people back in the driver’s seat of how their tax dollars are spent is ‘radical,’ then consider me guilty.”

Another high-ranking Florida Republican official requested anonymity due to the delicate balance required to navigate both factions in the ongoing budget negotiations.

“What Matt Gaetz is doing is exactly what the GOP base wants to see. Standing up against all odds, going after the establishment, and digging in on these issues. We’ll see if he’s successful, but I think just his willingness to stand up and fight will be appreciated by most Republican voters.”

But not every conservative agrees that a shutdown is the right course of action. Brent Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer for Americans for Prosperity (AFP), cautioned against using a shutdown as a negotiating tool.

“If lawmakers want to address the national debt, secure our border, and hold Joe Biden accountable, a government shutdown should be the last thing on their agenda,” Gardner said. He further criticized the current economic conditions. “This year’s national deficit is double what it was last year. Our nation’s debt rating has been downgraded, and the far-left policies of Bidenomics are crushing Americans.”

Meanwhile, other Florida Republican leaders, including Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, as well as high-ranking state legislators, have either declined to comment or did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The clock is ticking, and as Gaetz continues his push against what he views as bipartisan recklessness, it’s clear that most of his fellow Florida Republicans are choosing to wait and see, remaining noticeably quiet amid the political maelstrom.


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