As House Bickers, a 'Tubby' Insult Arises

Republicans clash on floor over speaker
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2024 6:10 PM CDT
As House Bickers, a 'Tubby' Insult Arises
Rep. Matt Gaetz asks a questions during a House Committee on Armed Services subcommittee hearing in March.   (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

One of Speaker Mike Johnson's seconds and one of his opponents tossed insults Thursday in the course of a confrontation on the House floor over the speaker's performance. Three Republicans gathered around Johnson to give him an earful about his plan to put aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan to a vote this week: Reps. Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Tim Burchett. Rep. Derrick Van Orden went up to the three and dared them to file a motion to remove Johnson; he later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he was trying to "call their bluff." During the ensuing debate, Van Orden called Gaetz "tubby."

The Wisconsin freshman said he only used "tubby" after Gaetz called him a "squish"—which Van Orden said he assumed meant he was being insulted as a soft person. The term is sometimes used by Republicans to imply colleagues are insufficiently Republican. Gaetz, who has not committed to the effort to oust Johnson, later told reporters he found his clash with Van Orden "puzzling and concerning." He added, "The only thing I gleaned from it is that Mr. Van Orden is not a particularly intelligent individual."

Van Orden said he went up to the group to back Johnson because "everybody needs a swim buddy." He said Gaetz and other GOP hard-liners are "destroying our majority." If they succeed, he said, and Donald Trump wins the election, he'll be dealing with an "obstructionist House of Representatives run by Democrats." As for Gaetz as an individual, Van Orden said he's a bully. "The only way to stop a person from bullying you is to push back hard," he said. (More House Republicans stories.)

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