“It’s disgraceful,” said Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), a longtime McCarthy ally.
“If the purpose is because it’s going to help me build my brand and gonna bring a little bit more money to my campaign,” Womack added of Mace, “then I think you need to question why you’re here.”
But for Mace, the anti-McCarthy vote may prove a purposeful step in a chameleonic career that’s already seen her swing repeatedly between Trump-centric conservatism and establishment-bucking centrism. Nearly two years to the day after she voted to refer a criminal contempt case against Trump-world stalwart Steve Bannon to the Justice Department, Mace showed up on his podcast Wednesday alongside lead McCarthy antagonist Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
And Mace is making clear that her vote for speaker is up for the taking by either Majority Leader Steve Scalise or Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). She met with Jordan on Wednesday after his speakership bid became official and plans to separately sit down with Scalise, according to a person familiar with the plans.
Elsewhere in the GOP, revenge is on the menu. House Republicans are now weighing whether to expel Mace from at least two centrist-leaning groups she belonged to, as POLITICO first reported. Her staff was quickly removed from several internal GOP communications channels shortly after her vote Tuesday.
After calling Gaetz “a fraud” for going on a fundraising spree while opposing McCarthy in January’s speaker race, Mace copied the Floridian’s tactic as she appeared with him on Bannon’s show. She implored conservative listeners for their support, saying that she would face backlash from the Washington establishment for her vote.
“I do need help, because they are coming after me,” Mace said.
During a Fox News interview later on Wednesday, Mace delivered a plea for donations that she acknowledges violated House rules that bar lawmakers from soliciting political contributions while on Capitol grounds. (Her office says she self-reported the matter to the House Ethics Committee.)
“Congresswoman Mace promised her constituents she’d be an independent voice for them,” Mace spokesperson Will Hampson said, adding that “the GOP, the party of free speech and diversity of opinion, can decide as a conference if it wants to punish one of their strongest female members for voting in a way they didn’t like.”
Mace already has two Democratic challengers in a reelection race that’s likely to be hard-fought, with serious questions about whether the party apparatus will commit significant cash to her. She beat back a conservative primary challenger last cycle, too, though her vote against McCarthy may stop a new one from appearing.
Gaetz affectionately promoted Mace on the Bannon podcast as “Maverick Mace,” hyping her so intensely that some Republicans started privately wondering whether she would try to seek a more senior role within the GOP conference.
But if Mace were to make any play for higher roles within the party, she’d likely struggle to get the votes she needs. The second-term 45-year-old’s self-styled “independent voice” often translates into moves that confuse her colleagues.
After whipsawing between distance from and embrace of former President Donald Trump, for example, she recently opened the door to backing his primary campaign. Within the Capitol, she’s known as an outspoken critic of party leadership and a frequent guest on cable news shows.
“I’m not sure what the fallout will be. She has no coalition of support,” said one House GOP lawmaker, who was granted anonymity to discuss internal party dynamics.
“I can’t stop her from going on the Sunday shows,” this lawmaker added. “But inside the conference, she is a running joke.”
Even after Mace hinted she would move against McCarthy during an ABC appearance on Monday, many didn’t take her seriously. Mace told “The View” hours before voting to oust the speaker that McCarthy had promised her things which never materialized, adding that she “empathized” with Gaetz’s frustration.
After her vote against McCarthy, which she cast only after the margin had turned decisively against him, Mace told reporters: “When you shake my hand and you make a promise and don’t keep it, there are consequences to those actions.”
McCarthy told a different story. Hours after his historic ejection, he didn’t hide his unbridled frustration when reporters asked about Mace’s comments.
“Nancy Mace is a whole ‘nother story,” McCarthy replied with a smile, eliciting laughter from the audience at his press conference. “Let’s just be honest here.”
The ousted speaker said he had called Mace’s chief of staff about her ABC comments the day before to ask “Where have I not kept my word?’”
McCarthy then recalled her chief of staff’s response: “You have kept your word, 100%.”
Shortly after McCarthy’s ouster, the congresswoman and her chief, among others, were spotted drinking at Bullfeathers, a popular Capitol Hill bar.
Given the House GOP’s slim majority, any retaliation against Mace will likely wait until after the speaker race that’s set to begin next week, according to several lawmakers who are deliberating on how to move against the eight Republicans who opposed McCarthy.
As one ally of the former speaker put it: “The only grudge that I know as a fact is going to last is the one we are going to hold against those eight assholes.”