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POLITICS

Did Matt Gaetz vote for Donald Trump to be Speaker? Could Trump get elected?

Rep. Kevin McCarthy becomes the first Speaker of the House to be removed from his position, with thoughts now turning to his replacement.

Update:
Rep. Kevin McCarthy becomes the first Speaker of the House to be removed from his position, with thoughts now turning to his replacement.
JONATHAN ERNSTREUTERS

As the dust slowly begins to settle on the news that Kevin McCarthy has been removed from his position by his own party, we reflect on what happened in January, and how this could potentially still have an impact.

-- The race for a new Speaker of the House is on --

It was day three of the process to elect a new Speaker of the House at the turn of the year, and Rep. Matt Gaetz drew murmurs from the 433 lawmakers present in the chamber when he called out his vote.

In the seventh ballot in the Speaker election, Gaetz replied “Donald John Trump” when asked to name his pick for the new Speaker. He was the only member of the House to forward Trump’s name and the former President did not have the support be a realistic contender. But could it have theoretically happened?

Could Trump become Speaker of the House?

In a word, yes. There is no constitutional requirement for the Speaker of the House to be a Representative. However, never in American history has the Speaker not been one of the chamber’s elected members.

The wording in the US constitution simply reads: “The House of Representatives shall [choose] their Speaker and other Officers.”

There is no mention of any restrictions preventing non-Representatives to be elected, but many constitutional scholars have argued that the founders would likely have assumed that Speakers would be a member of the House.

In theory, therefore, there is nothing constitutional that would prevent Trump from being elected as Speaker. But, in an increasingly divided Republican caucus, it is very unlikely that the vast majority would be willing to elect such a divisive figure.

Why did Gaetz vote for Trump?

Gaetz’ vote for Trump was little more than a symbolic vote against McCarthy at the time. The Floridian Congressman had been at odds with the GOP House leader for months leading up to it and had made no secret of his desire to prevent him from winning the gavel.

Speaking to reporters Gaetz described McCarthy as “masthead of the lobby core,” a reference to his frequent criticism of ‘the swamp’ in Washington. “I resent the extent to which Kevin McCarthy utilizes the lobbyists and the special interests to be able to dictate how political decisions are made, how policy decisions are made and how leadership decisions are made,” Gaetz added.

Gaetz has earned himself a reputation as a bit of a trouble-maker in Congress as part of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, which has close ties to Trump and MAGA Republicanism. McCarthy, who the group believes represents a more centrist approach, has failed to bring them on side during months of negotiations.

“My team are the people in Florida who sent me here to fight for them,” Gaetz said back then. “My team is not the assembly of group think that occurs inside the swamp. We got to drain the swamp.”

And that first step to remove McCarthy has now happened. Could Trump, currently in a legal mire of his own doing amid a run to return to the White House, be pushed again for the position?