The saga of electing the next speaker of the House took an especially dramatic turn on Wednesday when Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL) – one of the staunch group of holdouts against the candidacy of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – cast his fourth-round vote for fellow Florida lawmaker Byron Donalds, as the Naples Daily News reports, doing so just feet away from the onetime presumptive favorite.
Though the election of the House speaker is typically a done deal on Opening Day of each new Congress, things this time around have proven to be far more complicated, with a cadre of members from the conservative wing of the Republican party blocking McCarthy's path to claim the gavel that once seemed assured.
After having failed to marshal sufficient votes in the first three rounds of balloting, McCarthy stood for election in a fourth vote Wednesday, when Gaetz declared his support not for the prominent Californian legislator, but for Donalds instead. WATCH:
Rep. Matt Gaetz votes for Byron Donalds for the Speaker of the House. pic.twitter.com/tJuBVDUeNU
— Becker News (@NewsBecker) January 4, 2023
Gaetz is not the only hardline Republican to throw their support behind Donalds, who, as of Wednesday evening, had garnered 20 votes from fellow GOP lawmakers each of the three times he was nominated as an alternative to McCarthy.
Those members could not even be swayed by entreaties from former President Donald Trump, who took to his Truth Social platform Wednesday to urge all House Republicans to facilitate McCarthy's ascension to the speakership, as The Hill noted.
Trump wrote, “REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT. IT'S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT. Kevin Mccarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB – JUST WATCH!”
In response, Gaetz characterized Trump's statement on behalf of the more moderate candidate as “sad,” as The Hill reported separately, declaring that it “changes neither my view of McCarthy, nor Trump, nor my vote.”
The former president, however, was not the only one taking aim at the recalcitrant Republicans denying McCarthy their support, as former Congressman Trey Gowdy also let loose on the lawmakers who continue to stand in the way of his success.
Speaking to Fox News' Bret Baier Wednesday evening, Gowdy said, “Look, I got bad news for Kevin's opponents. He's got a lot more than 20 friends. So, there are more than 20 people that are going to say, you know what? We are not ever voting for anyone else.”
Gowdy went on, “And yet this kamikaze wing within the Republican Party knows better than 85 percent of the rest of the conference.”
Taking aim at the possible motivations and committee assignment wishes of those standing firm against McCarthy, Gowdy declared, “They didn't want a secure border. That is not what the negotiation was over, Bret. It was – there are a handful of people who want gavels and want things that they can't get based on merit, and they can't get it based on intelligence, but they want it given to them by the speaker of the House, and Kevin said no.”
After a sixth round of voting Wednesday evening in which no candidate received the necessary number of votes to claim the speaker's gavel, the House narrowly voted to adjourn until noon Thursday, when balloting was set to resume.
On Thursday afternoon, despite additional reported compromises with the band of Republican holdouts, McCarthy once again failed to win the necessary tally of votes to take the gavel, prolonging the chaos that has prevented lawmakers from beginning the jobs the American people sent them to Washington to do.