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Drama Stirs House Over McCarthy Speakership

Image: Drama Stirs House Over McCarthy Speakership
McCarthy, Boehner (AP)

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Wednesday, 07 Oct 2015 08:31 AM Current | Bio | Archive

With less than 24 hours to go before House Republicans choose a new speaker, most GOP lawmakers I spoke to last week voiced confidence Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California will emerge as the replacement for outgoing John Boehner.

But there are also mounting fears among the GOP that enough dissident lawmakers in their ranks will refuse to back McCarthy when the House elects a new speaker on Oct. 29 that he will fall below the number (218) he needs to seize the speaker’s gavel.

“The statement Kevin made [regarding the political impact on Hilary Clinton of the House’s Benghazi investigation] may give some people an excuse to raise the point and say why they are voting for someone else for speaker,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a deputy majority whip in the House, told me on Monday.

But, Cole quickly added, “not many will change. Kevin has acknowledged he made a mistake. And you make these judgments on candidates for leadership on the course of their careers and not on one accident.”

On Thursday, McCarthy will go into the Republican Conference the heavy favorite against insurgent conservative Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, and Dan Webster of Florida.

A vote by at least 30 GOP U.S. representatives for a candidate other than McCarthy will be enough to do in McCarthy. (The current breakdown is 247 Republicans and 188 Democrats, with all Democrats sure to vote for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California for speaker).

Under these circumstances, multiple balloting and, very likely, horse-trading between McCarthy and his party’s conservative dissidents will occur before a speaker is finally chosen — a scenario that last took place in 1923 and whose parallels to the current situation are striking.

Back then, progressive Republicans (or “radicals,” as The New York Times dubbed them)  had broken with the conservative Republicans under Speaker Frederick Gillett.

Much as Chaffetz, Webster, and other insurgents of today want rule changes in the House, the insurgents of 1923 demanded an easing of House rules that would enhance powers of committees over those of the GOP leadership hierarchy. Then, 17 Republican “radicals” backed Rep. Henry Cooper over Gillett, while another five voted for Rep. Martin Madden.

“The Democrats, voting as a unit for [Minority Leader and Tennessee Rep. Finis] Garrett, sent him ahead of Gillett three times,” reported the Times on Dec. 4, 1923.

The protracted roadblock to a speaker took its toll on the House. Among matters held up were the swearing-in of members, appointment of committees, and a message to Congress by President Calvin Coolidge.

On Dec. 5, 1923,“through the agreement reached between the radical progressives and the old-line Republicans last night that opportunity would be given to change the rules of the House, Frederick H. Gillett was elected Speaker today on the ninth ballot.”

Whether it takes similar deals and concessions on Kevin McCarthy’s part and a prolonged contest to make him speaker — or whether he becomes the next speaker at all — will be part of the high drama that plays out on Oct. 8.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

 

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With less than 24 hours to go before House Republicans choose a new speaker, most GOP lawmakers I spoke to last week voiced confidence Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California will emerge as the replacement for outgoing John Boehner.
boehner, mccarthy, speaker
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2015-31-07
Wednesday, 07 Oct 2015 08:31 AM
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