When Florida Republican Rep Matt Gaetz was trying to prevent Speaker Kevin McCarthy from assuming the gavel in January, he voted for former President Donald Trump in the seventh round of voting before Mr McCarthy finally managed to get the job he coveted for years on the 15th ballot.
While Mr Trump is technically eligible to replace Mr McCarthy, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be offered, let alone accept, the post.
On Tuesday, Mr Gaetz succeeded in having Mr McCarthy ousted as speaker of the House – bringing to an end a tenure of less than nine months.
The House of Representatives can elect anyone to be speaker, regardless if that person is a member of the chamber or not. While the Constitution doesn’t state that the speaker has to be a member of the House, a non-member has never been elected to the role.
The Constitution only states that legislators “shall choose their Speaker and other Officers”.
Before the January vote chaos, Mr Gaetz said that he would nominate Mr Trump. In March last year, while speaking at a Trump rally, he said that to “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”.
While the Constitution doesn’t state that the speaker has to be a member of the chamber, some experts think that the framers were unlikely to have expected the House to even consider a non-member for the job.
David Forte, a law professor at Cleveland State University, told NBC News in 2015 that “it would have been unthinkable for the most populous house not to have its leader be part of the representatives who were elected by the people”.
“Nothing fits that would make the speaker anything other than a member of the House,” apart from the Constitution not explicitly stating that.
He added that the Articles of Confederation stated that members of Congress would have the power “to appoint one of their members to preside”.
But Mr Forte also noted that the courts, including the Supreme Court, are unlikely to get involved in the issue, meaning that it’s technically possible to elect a non-member.
“There’s no way the Court’s going to get involved in that. Such internal aspects of each branch of government are appropriately untouchable by another branch. And that certainly would be one,” he said.
January’s 15 ballots were the first time it took more than one vote to elect a speaker since 1923, when nine votes took place before the position was filled.
On Monday, Mr Gaetz told the press that he had spoken to Mr Trump about his anti-McCarthy campaign, but didn’t say what Mr Trump’s thoughts on the matter are.
After Mr McCarthy lost Tuesday’s vote ousting him as speaker, some far-right Republicans began touting Mr Trump as a replacement.
MAGA Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote on X: “The only candidate for Speaker I am currently supporting is President Donald J. Trump. He will end the war in Ukraine. He will secure the border.
Gaetz still plans to try to oust McCarthy from speakership this week. Says he's ready to do it over and over again. Argues it's not him throwing House in chaos. "Real chaos is when the American people have to go through the austerity that is coming."
Says he's spoken to Trump. pic.twitter.com/1mLMrqcw0O
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 2, 2023
“He will end the politically weaponized government. He will make America energy independent again. He will pass my bill to stop transgender surgeries on kids and keep men out of women’s sports. He will support our military and police. And so much more!
“He has a proven 4 year record as President of the United States of America. He received a record number of Republican votes of any Republican Presidential candidate! We can make him Speaker and then elect him President! He will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!”
Trump is asked if he supports Matt Gaetz’s efforts to oust Kevin McCarthy as Speaker. He says he likes both and McCarthy said very nice things about him this morning so he doesn’t want to comment. pic.twitter.com/xTrnkd7eiY
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) October 1, 2023
During a campaign event in Iowa last week, Mr Trump refused to take sides on the escalating saga: “I don’t know anything about those efforts [to remove Mr McCarthy], but I like both of them very much.”
He then chimed in about the vote on Tuesday: “Why is it that Republicans are always fighting among themselves, why aren’t they fighting the Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our Country?”
He is yet to respond to the calls for him to take the gavel.