Barely 48 hours after John Boehner announced his bombshell resignation as speaker of the House Friday, discussion mounted that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was poised to wrap up enough votes from fellow House Republicans to take the speaker's gavel when Boehner leaves at the end of October.
If this is accurate, McCarthy, after only nine years in Congress, will have had the most meteoric rise to the speakership since Henry Clay was elected speaker as a freshman in 1811.
But these discussions did not deter Florida's stalwart conservative Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., from launching a bid for speaker himself. Hours after Boehner's surprise announcement on Friday, Webster—formerly the first Republican speaker of the Florida House since Reconstruction before coming to Congress in 2010—said he was a candidate for top job in the U.S. House.
"I always think I have a chance and I always give it all I've got," Webster told me on Saturday. As he did when he drew 12 of the 25 votes cast by Republican members against Boehner's re-election in January (and was subsequently removed from the Rules Committee by the speaker), the Floridian made it clear he was running against "a flawed process" rather than any opponent for the speakership.
"Right now, we have a power-based Congress, with the top of a pyramid being the place where all major decisions or made," he said, adding that "this is a reason that people outside Washington DC give approval of ratings of 10 percent to 15 percent at most for Congress."
As speaker, Webster would change this, he explained, "by flipping the process. I'd make it principle-based, where ideas are good because of what they say rather than because they are pushed by a committee chairman or a member's seniority or the party of the sponsors. Rank-and-file members would be successful."
Webster recalled how "we did precisely that after I first became speaker in Florida [in 1996] and our low approval ratings were flipped right-side up. And just as [the GOP-controlled Congress] is now dealing with a Democratic president, our Republican legislature then was dealing with a Democratic governor [the late Lawton Chiles]."
The Florida lawmaker has unveiled a 100-day plan for his proposed reforms. One example he pointed to was the need to start legislative endeavors early rather than wait until the last minute.
"When you wait to the last minute, you rush to get things done," he said, "and the closer you get to the deadline, the less options you have." Webster cited the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the Iran nuclear deal as cases in point of "fights that should have started much earlier, with tactics planned and executed a long time ago instead of waiting until the end."
The appropriations process is another example of where Webster believes improvement could be made "by speeding things up when we start. Under my plan, individual [appropriations] measures from Members would be sent to the appropriations committee in January and dealt with for four to six hours every day. And then they would be ready for floor action in a timely fashion. There would be no rushing to enact a Continuing Resolution, as we have now."
Signs are strong that Webster will face McCarthy one-on-one when the full Republican Conference after Boehner exits. The other House member mentioned for the speaker's gavel, Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas signaled over the weekend he was not a candidate.
No sooner had Boehner made his departure known on Friday morning than McCarthy supporters were letting the press of the early movement toward the Californian everyone in Congress calls just "Kevin."
"Kevin is a strong shepherd and has a strong relationship with the individual members," House GOP Policy Committee Chairman Luke Messer of Indiana told me Friday evening, "He called me this morning but didn't ask for my vote [for speaker]. If Kevin does run, I will most likely support him."
McCarthy's fellow Californian, staunch conservative Rep. Tom McClintock, spoke to me on Saturday, "I saved Kevin a phone call and committed to him by text message my vote for speaker soon after I heard about Boehner. Kevin has demonstrated extraordinary consensus-building skills among House Republicans. And he has mastered the long-lost art of listening, which was one of John Boehner's big failings."
Although he admitted having no firm evidence to prove it, McClintock said he suspects "an overwhelming majority of House Republicans have committed to Kevin."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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