Don’t listen to Matt Gaetz: Trump won’t be speaker of the House

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  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th president of the United States (2017–2021)
  • Matt Gaetz
    Matt Gaetz
    American politician

The latest litmus test from the right-wing of the Republican Party is supporting Donald Trump for Speaker of the House.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Rep Matt Gaetz of Florida said he would support Mr Trump being Speaker of the House and said he spoke with the former president about the prospect.

Similarly, last month, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon that Republicans should back Mr Trump for the role should Republicans win the majority in 2022, which looks increasingly likely.

Mr Meadows is also a former member of the House Freedom Caucus, the right-wing insurgent group that made Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan’s life a living hell and seem determined to do the same to current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

As presiding officer and chief political figure in the House of Representatives, the position of Speaker is one of the most powerful in the United States. Whoever holds it is also second in line to the presidency – after the vice-president – in the event of an emergency.

There is no denying Mr McCarthy is in trouble as House Minority Leader. Between his caucus engaging verbal spats last week to 13 members voting for the bipartisan infrastructure bill despite whipping against it, plenty of Republicans have expressed dissatisfaction with him. Indeed, Mr McCarthy could face a challenge from another Republican within the conference.

But just because two histrionic Republicans are floating this idea does not mean it will actually happen. First and foremost, doing so would automatically turn the midterms into a referendum on Mr Trump, rather than who Republicans really want to be the focus: President Joe Biden.

Mr Biden’s numbers have taken a precipitous drop since the US exit from Afghanistan left 13 US service members dead and the nation fell to the Taliban. Rising prices for gas and groceries as well as the ongoing pandemic have made voters take another look at Republicans. Nominating Mr Trump would nullify that.

Second of all, there have always been right-wingers who have staged vanity campaigns for Speaker, including Rep Louie Gohmert, the right-wing radical from Texas, and they almost never come to fruition.

Third, there simply aren’t the votes. Even if the former president were to stage a legitimate bid, it is likely a handful of Republicans would object to him, to say nothing of potential challengers to Mr McCarthy.

Multiple candidates for speaker would mean a split vote and the GOP caucus when all that is needed is a simple majority to give someone the gavel. Furthermore, it would solidify that Republicans are incapable of governing and are completely in thrall to Mr Trump.

Lastly, it’s not even clear Mr Trump would want the job. Mr Gaetz did not reveal what the president told him when the two discussed a speaker bid. And more than anything, it’s clear that Mr Trump wants a rematch with Mr Biden and is laying the groundwork for doing so. Getting bogged down as Speaker would distract him from preparing to run again.

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