Trump Gets One Vote For House Speaker In Apparent Hard-Right Stunt—And He’s Technically Eligible For The Job


Former President Donald Trump received one vote to be the next speaker of the House on the seventh and eighth ballots Thursday afternoon, in what appears to be a stunt as a protest against Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) bid carries on with no clear end in sight—but Trump is eligible to lead the lower chamber, even if he’s unlikely to take up the offer.

Key Facts

Firebrand Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) cast the vote for Trump, breaking with a group of fellow hardliners who supported Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.).

Gaetz was alone in his vote for Trump as the group of 19 other anti-McCarthy Republicans stuck to backing Donalds, even though Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) suggested in a Fox News interview Wednesday night she might nominate Trump in a future vote.

The House can elect whoever it wants to serve as speaker, even if it’s someone who isn’t a member of Congress, but there’s no indication Trump has an actual shot at winning the vote.

The speaker of the House has always been a member of the House of Representatives, even though the Constitution does not list House membership as a requirement for the job, simply saying lawmakers “shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers.”

The former president says he’s not interested in becoming speaker, and on Wednesday morning reiterated his support for McCarthy—a push that has so far failed to sway a contingent of “never Kevin” Republicans who are keeping McCarthy from winning a majority of votes in the narrowly Republican-controlled chamber.

Gaetz for months has vowed to nominate Trump for speaker, saying at a Trump rally in March, “Give us the ability to fire Nancy Pelosi, take back the majority, impeach Joe Biden and I am going to nominate Donald Trump for speaker.”


The Constitution might not explicitly require the speaker to be a member of Congress, but some scholars think the framers of the Constitution probably didn’t expect the House of Representatives to even contemplate choosing a non-member as its leader. Cleveland State University law professor David Forte called the idea “unthinkable” in a 2015 interview with NBC: “Nothing fits that would make the speaker anything other than a member of the house,” Forte argued. But he acknowledged the courts probably wouldn’t intervene in the matter, so lawmakers can probably get away with electing whoever they want as House speaker.

What To Watch For

McCarthy has promised to keep up his speaker bid for as long as it takes to win, but it’s unclear how long his supporters might maintain their patience as he tries to secure the votes. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.)—who has voted for McCarthy on every ballot—told reporters before the seventh vote Thursday that “people are going to start looking” for different options if McCarthy failed to flip votes. A group of pro- and anti-McCarthy Republicans have been meeting to discuss a potential deal, but none was reached as of Thursday afternoon even though McCarthy claimed the two sides are “having really good progress in conversation.”

Key Background

An eighth House vote is under way as the speaker as the contest drags into its third day, keeping House business in limbo as the body cannot take up rules and members cannot be sworn in until a speaker is selected. This is the first time it’s taken more than one ballot to pick a speaker since 1923, when it took nine ballots to pick one. It now seems possible—if not likely—this may become the most protracted race for speaker since before the start of the Civil War. The most drawn-out speaker battle took place over nearly two months in late 1855 and early 1856, when a heated debate over the future of slavery led to 133 votes to select a speaker. The point of contention this time is largely over committee assignments and House rules, with hardliners pushing for the ability to remove a speaker mid-term.

Further Reading

Kevin McCarthy Is Still Vying For House Speaker, But The Job Is Open To (Almost) Anyone (Forbes)

McCarthy Fails To Win House Speaker Election In Seventh Round—Despite Agreeing To Hard-Right Demands (Forbes)

McCarthy Agrees To These Concessions In His Quest To Become Speaker—But They May Not Be Enough (Forbes)

What To Know About Byron Donalds—The Republican Challenging McCarthy For Speaker (Forbes)

Trump Urges GOP To Unite Behind McCarthy, Avoid ‘Embarrassing Defeat’ Ahead Of Round 4 Of Voting (Forbes)

Without A Speaker, House Business Remains At A Standstill—Here’s What’s At Stake (Forbes)