Florida Rep.-elect Byron Donalds said Wednesday he received 20 votes to be House Speaker in the fourth and fifth ballots because GOP voters had “not been happy with party leadership.”
Donalds, a 44-year-old Republican, appeared on Fox News after the votes were tallied to show that far-right members of the conference had once again stymied party leader Kevin McCarthy’s drive for the gavel as the thin new GOP majority struggled to begin its business.
The Crown Heights native said the “path is very difficult right now for Kevin” before adding that the next speaker “may or may not be me.”
Donalds is a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, which had made up the vast majority of McCarthy opponents in the balloting Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Tuesday, 19 votes were cast for fellow caucus member Reps. Jim Jordon and Andy Biggs in the first two ballots before Donalds joined their ranks of dissent in the third ballot. On Wednesday, the sophomore lawmaker voted for himself after being nominated by McCarthy detractor Rep.-elect Chip Roy of Texas
The multiple ballots for speaker, which had not happened in a century, indicated a pitched battle for party identify. The Freedom Caucus has largely been aligned with former president and current candidate Donald Trump, who had endorsed McCarthy.
“Republican voters across the country have not been happy with party leadership,” Donalds told Fox outside the House chamber.
“Washington is broken, the House does not function. And so we want to see a process where power is actually devolved back to the members of Congress so that they can do the job on behalf of the people who sent them here.”
Donalds said House Republicans were undergoing an “active dialogue” to “figure out if there’s a pathway for Kevin to become speaker or anybody else to become speaker.”
The newly elevated power player said his caucus was not worried about delaying the business of the 118th Congress — whose members cannot be sworn in until a speaker is chosen.
“A one-day delay or a two-day delay, even a three-day delay, does not stop us from being able to do the things that we were elected to do,” Donalds said.
“Actually, I’m quite confident that after this delay, everybody is going to be more than ready to get back to work. So it’s important that we go through this process and get it right.”
McCarthy was said to be in preliminary talks with centrist Democrats about getting their support, Rep.-elect Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican, told CNN.
The embattled candidate was also said to be horse-trading with right-wing holdouts over the Freedom Caucus’ list of demands as members seek guaranteed representation on House committees.
Over the weekend, McCarthy had given in to his critics and approved revised rules on a “motion to vacate” — similar to the one that brought down former GOP House Speaker John Boehner in 2015 — that would make it easier for Republicans to remove him.
Donalds said that procedure should be common sense, and not “concern” the embattled frontrunner.
“In any corporation … if the head guy or lady is not doing the job, the board of directors can call a vote at any time. We all know this to be true. If it’s good in business, it’s definitely good here on Capitol Hill,” he said.