Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., voted for former President Donald Trump to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives on Thursday as the Republican Party continued to struggle to reach a consensus on who will lead it in that chamber.
Gaetz, who — along with 20 other right-wing Republican lawmakers — has refused to back Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for the position, is a staunch backer of the former president. But Gaetz has refused to heed Trump's call to support McCarthy and "take the victory" of winning back the House from Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections.
Following Trump's plea on Wednesday to GOP House members to back McCarthy, Gaetz appeared to mock the former president, echoing one of the retorts Trump uses on social media.
"Sad!" Gaetz said in a Wednesday statement about Trump's endorsement of McCarthy. "This changes neither my view of McCarthy, nor Trump, nor my vote."
On Thursday, minutes after Gaetz posted a video clip of himself voting for Trump, Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for the former president, retweeted it. Hours later, Trump posted a doctored photo on his social media network showing himself sitting in the speaker's chair as President Biden addressed Congress, his mouth open, tongue sticking out.
Gaetz's introduction of Trump's name into the fray came in the seventh round of balloting, though no other Republican stepped forward to join him. McCarthy failed once again in that round to garner enough votes to be named speaker, receiving 201 of the 217 votes he needs. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., again received 212 votes from a united Democratic caucus. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., received 19 votes, while one Republican, Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, voted "present."
In the eighth round of voting, Gaetz was once again the only Republican to cast a vote for Trump, but he switched his vote to Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., in the ninth and tenth rounds, neither of which ultimately produced a more favorable outcome for McCarthy.
As the 11th round of voting got underway, Gaetz formally nominated Trump for the speaker position, delivering a speech in which he sharply criticized McCarthy.
"We also have to restore the actual person who ought to be in the speaker's office," Gaetz said in reference to Trump, "not the squatter who is currently there."
Gaetz's speech was met with near total silence, and the Florida lawmaker was, yet again, the only House member to vote for Trump for speaker. When the official vote count was announced, members did react when Trump's single vote was noted.
There is no law or provision in the U.S. Constitution preventing the appointment of a person to be speaker who is not, or has never been, a member of the House, and Gaetz has long eyed the possibility that it might someday be Trump.
In 2021, he told Yahoo News Reporter Alexander Nazaryan that he was considering a move to try to place Trump in that role.