Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) praised former President Trump and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) for pushing him over the finish line and helping him secure the gavel.
He gave the two credit for convincing each of the six remaining Republican holdouts — of which Gaetz was one — to vote “present” on the 15th ballot, lowering the number of votes McCarthy needed to win.
“I don’t think anybody should doubt his influence. He was with me from the beginning,” McCarthy said of Trump after the House had adjourned for the weekend. He added the former president was “all in” and “helping get those final votes.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) confirmed Trump was on the other end of the line when she offered her phone to Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), one of McCarthy’s detractors. A photo of her doing so was widely circulated during the votes.
“Absolutely,” she said. “My favorite president.”
Greene declined to say what Trump’s message was.
“I think I’m gonna keep that between us,” she said.
It was Gaetz’s own “present” vote that set off chaos on the floor after the 14th ballot on Friday night. He was the last of the holdouts to cast a ballot, and McCarthy needed his affirmative endorsement — not a “present” vote — to win.
Things appeared tense between Gaetz and other lawmakers — one had to be physically restrained — but McCarthy said it wasn’t heated.
“It became a tie, and … Matt really wanted to get everybody there. Through all of this, people’s emotions go up and down. At the end of the night, Matt got everybody there to the point that nobody voted against it. It actually helped unite,” McCarthy said.
Gaetz cast a “present” vote on the 15th ballot as well, but so did the five other Republican holdouts.
McCarthy added he’s “1,000 percent” confident he’ll be Speaker for a full two-year term.
Gaetz, for his part, said he had switched from voting for other candidates to voting “present” because “I ran out of things to ask for.”
Asked if he trusts McCarthy, Gaetz suggested he does not. “Fortunately, we have a rules agreement that isn’t reliant on that,” he said.