Today is one of those nerdy, what if days. Ponder this: the Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives. I know that is an unlikely hypothetical but with over 90 days to the election it is not out of the questions. I see a possible repercussion. Let’s explore.
While my entire scenario is based on a hypothetical, it is a fact that Paul Ryan is retiring and the Speakership is open. If the Republicans retain the majority they will certainly want to name the Speaker but it is not that clear cut and simple. The Speaker is elected at the beginning of the session. While the Constitution calls for a Speaker it does not require that they are a member of the House or come from the majority party for that matter. The only thing required is that the speaker be elected by majority vote. That means not the highest voter getter among multiple candidates, but with 218 or more votes. There is the core of my nerdy problem.
The Republican House caucus is more like a coalition than a true caucus. If the Republicans happen to maintain control of the House the caucus will be smaller and even further to the right. In other words the Tea Party (that currently calls themselves the Freedom Caucus and who knows what new deceptive name they will come up with next) while still the minority of the “majority” will hold even more influence in it than they currently do. To further complicate things the Tea Party faction is much more closely aligned with Trump. It is the Trump base that dominates Republican primaries giving Trump his control over the House GOP.
Right wing extremist and scandal plagued Jim Jordan of Ohio has already declared for Speaker. Although (prudently) not announced, current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California appears to be the traditional Republicans’ favorite. Louisianan Steve Scalise is certainly angling for a run. Whether he would openly run against McCarthy is highly questionable, but behind the scenes he is running make no mistake about that. Scalise is much more palatable to the extremists than the Californian McCarthy and comes from the south, the Tea Party’s geographical stronghold.
In this scenario I see multiple ballots with an impossible outcome to predict. Knowing they have no chance of naming the Speaker the Democrats will certainly rally around Nancy Pelosi. In fact the Democratic Leader from California may well get the most early ballot votes but will never get the Republican support needed to get to the magic 218. I see McCarthy finishing a strong second but again well short of the 218 with the remaining Republicans voting for Jordan. This will be the basic pattern of the early ballots with the numbers changing little if at all.
At some point reality will start to kick in and one of three things will happen. The most likely is that a backroom deal is struck and the Jordan people swing over to elect McCarthy. The next most likely is that Scalise emerges as a compromise candidate. The third option is the worst. Remember the Speaker need not be a sitting member of the House. How about somebody out of left field (or in this case right field)? someone like Steve Bannon, Newt Gingrich or Sean Hannity. That is not as far-fetched as it seems at first glance.
Yes, without you doing your job of electing Democrats this fall things can get even wilder and less small “d” democratic in Washington.
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