Two years ago, The New York Times reported that Mr. Gaetz was the subject of a Justice Department investigation over allegations that the congressman had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, a violation of federal sex-trafficking laws. Mr. Gaetz denied the allegation and has not been charged.
Last month, Joel Greenberg, a Florida tax collector and Gaetz confidant who has been cooperating with the sex-trafficking investigation, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. It remains unclear what the sentence means for Mr. Gaetz, whose lawyers have tried and failed to learn from the Justice Department whether the case remains active or closed.
Mr. Gaetz has in the meantime propelled forward, as quick to offend as ever. Last summer he told a conference of conservative college students that abortion supporters are less likely to get pregnant because they are unattractive. “Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb,” he said. “These people are odious on the inside and out. They’re like 5-2, 350 pounds, and they’re like, ‘Give me my abortions or I’ll get up and march and protest.’”
Yet he can be as quick to surprise as to repel. He has received accolades from animal rights groups for his opposition to federally funded animal testing. Colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee say they regard him as a productive member, and he was recently seen on the House floor having a lengthy discussion with Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican and former member of the Navy SEALs, about providing veterans with access to psychoactive drugs.
During votes in the House chamber, he tends to sit by himself, with no visible signs of discontent. Friends of Mr. Gaetz maintain that three terms of political seasoning on Capitol Hill, in addition to his 2021 marriage to Ginger Luckey, a sales analyst he met the previous year at Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald J. Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla., have matured the congressman’s approach to politics and the way he conducts his personal life.
A Bombastic Adolescent
Republican colleagues remember how swiftly Mr. Gaetz sought to ingratiate himself in 2017, his first year in Congress, with Speaker Paul D. Ryan — how, at a dinner Mr. Ryan hosted for the new members, Mr. Gaetz showed exaggerated concern for a minor sports injury Mr. Ryan had suffered on his hand.
Mr. Gaetz also displayed a lawyerly deftness when it came to cajoling the House Steering Committee into awarding him a seat on the Armed Services Committee. But he could also be boorish, as when he bragged about his sexual conquests and even showed photos of them on the House floor, according to one member.