House speaker race: Byron Donalds responds to ‘retribution’ for running against Kevin McCarthy

House speaker race: Byron Donalds responds to ‘retribution’ for running against Kevin McCarthy

Republicans are still deciding who will be the speaker of the House for the 118th session of Congress, but as an elected member. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., says he’s getting closer to the caucus, with some members starting to question the potential penalty for voting against him.

One member who isn’t worried is R-elect Byron Donalds, R-Fla., who received votes for the chairmanship and stood against McCarthy on four of the six votes.

“I’m 6’2″ 275 [pounds]I’m not worried about that,” Donalds said outside the Capitol when asked by NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Ryan Nobles if he was worried about the potential punishment.

Donalds initially supported McCarthy’s mandate, but after the California Republican failed to reach the 218-vote threshold in two ballots Tuesday, the Florida lawmaker shifted gears.

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 14: Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol building on June 14, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)


“The reality is that Reputation Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have the votes,” Donalds tweeted after changing his vote against McCarthy during Tuesday’s third presidential vote. “I gave my support to him publicly and by two votes on the house floor. 218 is the number, and right now, nobody is there. Our conference needs to take a break and get together and find somebody or work out the next steps.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., answers questions during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 29, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Donalds became the 20th Republican to vote for a candidate other than McCarthy, namely Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who has said he does not want the chairmanship and has endorsed McCarthy. The failed speaker votes were the first since 1923.

“These continuous votes are not working for anyone,” Donalds added. “When the dust settles, we will have a Republican president, now is the time for our conference to debate and come to a consensus. It will take time, Democracy is messy sometimes, but we will be ready to govern in on behalf of the American people. Debate is healthy.”

During an interview on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday morning, Donalds said after the second vote showed the leadership was “deadlocked” that Republicans should have met privately and found a new candidate.


He also addressed the perception that Republicans are wasting time by not choosing to back McCarthy, saying the “House leadership race” was important because it will determine how Republicans “get Washington back on track.”

“For too long in the nation’s capital, people have gone along with the next wave of leadership. And this is not an anti-Kevin McCarthy statement. This is a statement about what an open consultative process means for the republic constitutional that is the United States of America”.

The Floridian struck an optimistic tone, saying Republicans would “find a way to make it happen.”

Part of the dispute behind Donalds and 19 other Republicans, including the House Freedom Caucus led by elected lawmakers. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. and Rep. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., includes McCarthy not wavering on some demands.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 04: US Rep.-elect Byron Donalds (R-FL) speaks to the media during the second day of the Speaker of the House election outside the US Capitol building on January 04, 2023 in Washington, DC. DC. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)


The defectors want to ensure that they are not forced to give up their committee duties; they want investigative probes into the FBI and others, and they want to bring back the impeachment — a process of the majority party voting out the incumbent if they lose confidence in his or her leadership.

A motion to acquit can be initiated by any single member of the majority – a number less than the 20 defectors currently facing McCarthy. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., previously repealed the lengthy process.

“Any member who wants to be a leader should not be afraid of that,” added Donalds.

“Rules matter in how you govern this country,” he told “Fox & Friends” anchor Brian Kilmeade on Wednesday. “Once we elect a speaker, the rules will dictate how the House operates, and that goes directly to our ability to achieve the solutions that everyone wants to see here on Capitol Hill.”

After the interview, Donalds voted against McCarthy on the fourth, fifth and sixth speaker votes.

The House failed on three votes for a speaker on Tuesday, then adjourned. The first two votes on Tuesday included 19 votes for candidates other than McCarthy, which became 20 after newly elected Rep. Bryon Donalds switched to the anti-McCarthy side on the third ballot.

The majority of those votes went to Jordan, but the situation changed the next day.

On Wednesday, defectors nominated Donald for president, who received the same 20 total votes on the fourth, fifth and sixth ballots.

After the series of votes, the House voted narrowly 216-214 to adjourn until Thursday, when members will continue to vote on the next speaker. All Democrats and some Republicans voted against adjourning for the day.


After the final vote, McCarthy said some progress had been made in negotiations with those who voted against him and said private discussions would be more productive than forcing more votes.

“I crawl before I walk, I walk before I run,” McCarthy said after the House adjourned. “I felt like we had a very good discussion.”

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 04: Rep. Chip Roy, R-TX, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., debates with each other on the House floor of the U.S. Capitol building Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

McCarthy has failed a total of six times to get the 218 votes needed to win the speakership: three times on Tuesday and three times on Wednesday. His majority was 203 votes on Tuesday and 201 on Wednesday.


The election of a speaker should be the first act of a new session of Congress, even before swearing-in ceremonies for new members.

Peter Kasperowicz and Tyler Olson of Fox News contributed to this report.

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