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Could a FL Republican emerge as the next U.S. House Speaker? And what about Trump?

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Could a FL Republican emerge as the next U.S. House Speaker? And what about Trump?

Oct 04, 2023 | 4:20 pm ET
By Mitch Perry
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Could a FL Republican emerge as the next U.S. House Speaker? And what about Trump?
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Donald Trump and Byron Donalds (photo credit: Byron Donalds Congressional website)

Former President Donald Trump said Wednesday that supporters have suggested he serve as the next U.S. House speaker, but his main goal is returning to the White House in 2024.

“A lot of people have been calling me about (the House) speaker. All I can say is we’ll do what’s best for the country and for the Republican Party,” Trump said outside a Manhattan courtroom where he is being accused of fraud by the state of New York, according to NBC News.

Noting his huge lead in national and state polls in the Republican race for president, Trump, now based in Florida, reiterated that the presidency remains his prime focus, “but we have some great people in the Republican Party that could do a great job as speaker.”

In the aftermath of Kevin McCarthy’s ouster Tuesday night in a vote precipitated by Panhandle-area Congressman Matt Gaetz, several members of Congress have indicated they want Trump to serve as the next speaker. That includes Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, who wrote on X simply “@realdonaldTrump for Speaker.”

However, Trump may not be eligible, even if he were to show interest. While House historians say that the U.S. Constitution is silent regarding the qualifications of who can serve as speaker of the House of Representatives, current House Republican Rules state that “A member of the Republican Leadership shall step aside if indicted for a felony for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed.”

Trump is facing multiple indictments in separate state and federal cases against him. In the case in Georgia, where he is charged with four counts of attempting to overturn the 2020 election, he could face up to five years in prison for the first charge against him, and up to 20 years for each of the following three charges.

Another Florida Republican whose name has been floated as a potential candidate is Southwest Florida Congressman Byron Donalds.

In a statement published on X on Tuesday night, Tennessee Republican Congressman Andy Ogles listed eight people who could potentially succeed McCarthy, and listed Donalds’ name second. He also included Trump on the list.

Central Florida freshman Republican congressman Cory Mills told Fox News Wednesday that while he “certainly supports President Donald J. Trump,” he also thought Donalds would be a good pick. “I think Byron is a phenomenal leader.”

In January, when it took fifteen votes for McCarthy to capture enough support to become House speaker, Donalds emerged as a candidate who won a bloc of votes in multiple rounds of voting.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Christian Ziegler worked for years on Capitol Hill and says the decision on the next speaker will be based a lot on relationships. He says he’s all for Donalds getting into the competition.

“I think he’d make an outstanding speaker,” Ziegler said. “Obviously, I would love to see that. It’ll be decided in Washington amongst colleagues in the Republican conference, but I would love to see a Speaker Byron Donalds if we had the opportunity for Florida.”

The Phoenix has reached out to Donalds’ office for comment but has not received an immediate response.

While some members of Florida’s GOP congressional delegation are listing their favorite candidates to serve as speakers, others are listing the qualifications that they’re looking for in order to give their support.

“I will vote for the Speaker who publicly and clearly commits to defunding Jack Smith’s anti-American election interference witch hunts and subpoenas Hunter Biden while bringing a vote on the impeachment of Joe Biden to the floor of the House,” U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, of Pinellas, wrote Tuesday on X.

House Republican leaders announced Tuesday night that they were cancelling votes for the rest of the week and will return next week to choose a successor to McCarthy.