As the House undergoes an increasingly absurd series of votes in which Republicans are failing, time and again, to nominate a new speaker of the House, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) on Thursday cast what seemed to be two unserious — or at least knowingly derisive — votes for Donald Trump.
Gaetz cast the only vote for Trump during the House’s seventh and eighth speaker votes, resulting in a resounding but not surprising loss for the former president. The votes also saw two more losses for Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (California), who fell short of a majority of 218 votes at 201 votes, with votes from the GOP’s other rebels against McCarthy for Representatives Byron Donalds (R-Florida) and Kevin Hern (R-Oklahoma).
Though the speaker of the House doesn’t have to be a member of the House, Trump had no chance of becoming speaker, which Gaetz likely knows, nor does he want the job.
Instead, the votes for Trump could represent a refusal from Gaetz to capitulate to McCarthy, or perhaps open contempt toward McCarthy and his repeated attempts to win the speakership, despite McCarthy’s many concessions to the far right in the process.
It’s possible that Gaetz harbors a real desire to make Trump speaker of the House, which some of his allies have suggested; in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday night, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) brought up the idea amid a strange back and forth with Fox’s Sean Hannity. “There are certainly names that are being floated around and, hey, maybe I should nominate President Donald J. Trump tomorrow,” she said, somewhat flippantly.
“Is this a game show? So we’re going to pick [Rep.] Jim Jordan one day, Donalds the other day, Trump the next day?” Hannity asked in frustration.
A Trump speakership would be bizarre and dangerous, as he would have wide legislative power and the ability to, for instance, block the raising of the debt ceiling at will. He could also potentially affect the results of the 2024 presidential election, and would have control over how the election is certified in the House. Though Trump has endorsed McCarthy, his endorsement has failed to swing any votes toward the GOP leader.
Regardless of Gaetz’s intent, however, his votes are a show of the deeply fractured nature of the GOP and the disagreement even among the House Freedom Caucus and other far right Republicans who have been blocking McCarthy’s speakership and seemingly frivolously picking extremist right-wing members of Congress to take the spot.
Over the eight votes that the House has held so far, the anti-McCarthy faction has voted for seven separate candidates: Representatives Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) and Jim Banks (R-Indiana), former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-New York), Jordan (R-Ohio), Donalds, Hern and Trump. The votes for Jordan came despite the fact that he took to the floor on Tuesday to nominate McCarthy.
Some political commentators have speculated that the end goal of the anti-McCarthy faction is to embarrass him, though it is not only McCarthy but also the GOP at large that is coming off as extremely unprofessional — with no end in sight to the party’s protracted public infighting so far.
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