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Republican lashes out at Matt Gaetz by branding him a ‘scumbag’ and repeating sex and drug claims

A Republican member of the House of Representatives went off against two of his colleagues on Sunday after a tense weekend in Congress led to the passage of military assistance to Ukraine.

Tony Gonzales of Texas was speaking to CNN when he was asked whether Speaker Mike Johnson would survive a motion to vacate his title being led by several lawmakers on the far right win of his party.

“He will survive,” Mr Gonzales said, before launching into his tirade: “Look, I work with some real scumbags.”

“Matt Gaetz, he paid minors to have sex with him at drug parties,” Mr Gonzales said. “Bob Good endorsed my opponent, a known neo-Nazi. These people used to walk around in white hoods at night. Now they’re walking around with white hoods in the daytime.”

His reference to Mr Gaetz relates to unproven allegations about the Florida congressman’s behaviour that have run rampant as the House pursues an Ethics Committee investigation into the matter. Mr Gaetz has strenuously and repeatedly denied wrongdoing; the Department of Justice, having looked into the matter, declined to bring charges against him. The agency did charge an associate of Mr Gaetz’s with sex trafficking as a result of the probe — that associate is now spending 11 years behind bars after pleading guilty.

Mr Gonzales is far from the only Republican member to spread these allegations about Mr Gaetz. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy recently did so during a talk at Georgetown University — Mr Gaetz is credited with leading the effort to oust the former speaker last fall.

“I’ll give you the truth why I’m not speaker,” Kevin McCarthy said. “It’s because one person, a member of Congress … he slept with a 17-year-old.”

The accusation flung at Mr Good’s feet refers to the House Freedom Caucus chair’s endorsement of Brandon Herrera, Mr Gonzales’s Republican primary opponent in the 2024 cycle. Mr Herrera, a YouTuber, is a rightwing influencer who has made jokes with overt Nazi imagery, including one where he referred to a German-manufactured rifle as a “ghetto blaster”.

Mr Herrera responded on Twitter: “This is the death spiral ladies and gentlemen. He has to cry to his liberal friends about me, because Republicans won’t listen anymore.”

Mr Good and Mr Gaetz have not reponded to their colleague’s tirade. The Independent has reached out to their offices for comment.

The House held a rare whirwind weekend session on Saturday and oversaw the passage of four bills tied to foreign policy and military assistance. Three main pieces of the legislation included military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The Ukraine portion of the bills was valued around $60. 8bn; some of that will go toward rebuilding US stockpiles, while billions more will help Kyiv purchase new air defence systems, munitions and other supplies.

Mr Gaetz and a number of conservative Republicans have come out against further military assistance to Ukraine, which for various reasons they argue is US invovlement in an unwinnable war. That faction failed to tank the legislation on Saturday, though the Republican speaker was forced to rely on Democratic votes to see the Ukraine bill pass.

What’s in the full foreign aid package passed by the House:

Three pieces of legislation that were part of the national security supplemental passed by the Senate, as well as one piece of sidecar legislation dealing with Russia/Iran sanctions, passed the House on Saturday. Combined, they will provide tens of billions of dollars in security and military assistance to US allies in three regions.

Ukraine

The Ukraine portion of the bill is the largest. $60.8bn is earmarked for Ukraine in the bills passed on Saturday, with much being targeted to resupply vital air defences for the Ukrainian military. A Republican amendment to strip all non-defence spending from the bill failed.

Of the defence spending in the bill, $23bn is set aside to replenish US stockpiles drawn down by the effort to supply Ukraine, while another $11bn would support current US operations in eastern Europe. Nearly $14bn was targeted to help Ukraine purchase advanced weapon and defence systems.

A relatively smaller amount, $26m, was supplied to provide oversight efforts to ensure that US contributions to Ukraine are being disbursed correctly and fairly.

Israel

Much of the $26.38bn Israel bill is centred around restocking Israeli munitions required for its defences as well as the siege of Gaza, where Israel is attempting to wipe out Hamas militants. $4bn is included for resupplying the Iron Dome defensive grid, and $1.2bn is include for the so-called “Iron Beam”, a ground-based laser system used to take out drones and missiles.

$3.5bn is set aside to help Israel procure weapon systems, while nearly $7bn is marked for restocking US supplies and funding operations in the region.

Indo-Pacific

One last segment of the foreign aid package deals with Taiwan and other US allies in the Indo-Pacific region such as the Philippines. This smaller ($8.12bn) bill sets aside $3.3bn for the construction of submarine port infrastructure around the Indo-Pacific and includes roughly $4bn in assistance to Taiwan and regional military partners of the US. Just over a half billion is also provided to directly strengthen US military assets in the region.


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