As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

Conservatives Eye the Speakership

Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s shocking decision Thursday to drop out of the race for speaker presents conservatives with a perhaps once-in-a-generation chance to truly seize power in the House.

Having taken Speaker John Boehner’s scalp and now McCarthy’s, too, conservatives are in the driver’s seat, and everybody knows it.

From many accounts, McCarthy, of California, was derailed when some 40 House conservatives declared they would support another candidate, leaving the expected speaker-to-be without the 218 votes he would have needed to win in a full House vote.

That conservative faction is now calling the shots, and it has some clear demands: No speaker will be tolerated who will:

  • Sit by while millions are spent by business groups to oust conservatives in primaries;
  • Go behind the caucus’s back to negotiate legacy-buffing budget deals with President Barack Obama;
  • Refuse to face with the White House over principle, or who quakes at the thought of shutting down the government.

Conservatives want the next speaker to be much more aggressive than Boehner — and, it turns out, McCarthy.

“They want a speaker who is going to go toe-to-toe with this president,” said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council. “They don’t expect to win all the time. But they want them to fight.”

Here is a look at some of the leading possibilities for the top House post, in order of their rankings, by two conservative organizations, Heritage (H) and FreedomWorks (FW), based on votes in the current congressional session. The caucus must choose a candidate before the scheduled full House vote Oct. 29.

  • Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio H: 96 percent; FW: 100 percent. The chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus has declined to run previously but could change his mind with McCarthy out. Appearing on “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Thursday before McCarthy’s announcement, Jordan said it is vital for the leadership to change. “The case we gotta make is the one the American people are making. When you have 60 percent of your voters — your voters, Republican voters — who think we’ve betrayed them. Not disappointed, not slightly off track — betrayed them. Then we had better figure this out. We had better start standing for the things that we told them we would stand for.”
  • Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas H: 85 percent; FW: 91 percent. The seven-term congressman previously had taken his name out of the running for speaker. But one congressional aide said Hensarling could potentially be a “bridge” candidate who could unite the various factions of the caucus. The Financial Services Committee chairman has been a sometimes Boehner antagonist and is a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
  • Rep. Tom Price of Georgia H: 80 percent; FW: 91 percent. Mentioned as a potential speaker candidate after Boehner’s announced his resignation, he had been locking up support for his planned run for majority leader. With McCarthy now remaining in that role, though, Price could decide to make a move for speaker. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday that an interim speaker may be the way to go. “The best course would be for us to select a candidate for Speaker who will serve in that capacity for the next 15 months,” he said in a statement. “This would allow the House to complete the business in a responsible manner, providing ample time for everyone’s voices to be heard, leading into full leadership elections in November of 2016.”
  • Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas H: 79 percent; FW: 91 percent. The Rules Committee chairman had been running for whip. He could decide to go for the top job instead.
  • Jason Chaffetz of Utah H: 81 percent; FW: 82 percent. The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee publicly declared himself an underdog when he launched his bid for speaker on Sunday and bluntly admitted that he did not have the votes to win. But that was then. With McCarthy out, Chaffetz’s odds presumably improve somewhat. Still, his bid still must be considered a long shot. The Americans for Legal Immigration political action committee accuses him flip-flopping on the issue of citizenship for illegal immigrants. He told reporters after McCarthy’s withdrawal that he believes it is time for a “fresh start” in Congress, According to USA Today. “That was the whole genesis of my campaign, but we need to have a lot more family discussion, because we need to find somebody that our whole body can unite behind and do what we were elected to do.”
  • Daniel Webster of Florida H: 77 percent; FW: 73 percent. He had been gearing up for a run against Boehner and now seeks the position on changed political terrain. Webster, a three-term representative and former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, promises to move power from a handful of men and women in the leadership to the rank and file.
  • Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana H: 60 percent; FW: 73 percent. The current whip, Scalise was another candidate for majority leader. With Boehner retiring and McCarthy bowing out of the race to succeed him, that would leave Scalise next in line based on House leadership hierarchy. Of course, that could also hurt him. Among some representatives, anyone associated with Boehner may be tainted, and Scalise voted on Sept. 30 for a temporary spending measure that kept Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer support intact.
  • Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin H: 57 percent; FW: 18 percent. He says he doesn’t want it, that he has a young family and wants to be with them, but that didn’t stop him from running for vice president. He was all the buzz after McCarthy dropped out, and the pressure on him is intense to change his mind. Many think he is the best possibility for uniting the caucus, having credibility with both conservatives and the establishment wing. Signs as of Thursday evening were that he is considering a run — or at least seriously mulling it.

The establishment is looking more and more desperate. And there’s an important parallel here to the presidential race. The establishment put all of its chips on McCarthy, and then when it became clear that McCarthy couldn’t get the votes, the establishment is left trying to scramble for Plan B. Meanwhile, that same establishment has put more than $100 million on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who — like McCarthy — is a highly flawed candidate.

Wouldn’t it be smarter for the establishment to change course on Bush now, instead of waiting until it finds itself facing yet another eleventh-hour crisis?

This piece first appeared in PoliZette.

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57 Responses to Conservatives Eye the Speakership

  1. Terrific analysis…thanks Keith.

    People are simply fed up with business as usual in the beltway. Even a move that places the needle just right of where we are right now is unacceptable.

    But, we must caution that effective leadership involved more than just putting “our guy” in the seat.

    The Leader must lead, but also effectively communicate and work demonstrably with the opposition.

    H

  2. They finally noticed the mob forming outside the castle carrying torches and pitchforks – or is it that they finally see that the voters have had enough of their wishy-washy bending to the will of the Dems?
    The new Speaker doesn’t have to lead or govern at all – all she or he must do is guide the proper form to enact legislation – not decide what it’s to be.
    If the majority want to gut Obamacare, then the Speaker is obliged to pass that on to the Senate, not file it away somewhere.
    The Repubs are the majority now – they don’t have to beg on bended knee to the Dems anymore.

  3. Chaffetz or Webster works for me at the moment. To move forward.

    I am no Paul Ryan fan. But leave the man alone. This position is totally incompatible with his life.

    Sessions — yikes. No. Have no idea about the rest of them. It’s 15 months — get it done for now.

    As I have said before. Unnecessarily messy, but this is change. Time for the conservatives to get their act together. They will be better for it.

    Keith, excellent point re. GOPe national. Not looking good for the establishment candidates.

    • Unless someone else comes forward, I’m with Webster. Chaffetz has done more grandstanding than actually report producing with his chairmanship and Webster has promised what the conservative caucus has been asking for all along: a seat at the table and input into the process.

      • Dunno on this Webster-kind of a gramps coming out of the woodwork–says he would be more than an interim and wants “change.” I am starting to think this change this has caused a lot of trouble. But if we must have change, I prefer younger blood, fewer markers out, and as Joe Scarborough says, less time drinking with K Streeters.

        • Marcus,I agree re. Chaffetz. And yes Star, I agree re. young blood, but we need connections and knowledge too.

          For what it’s worth — here is a snippet from my local tea party —

          “At the Federal level, am sure you are aware of the situation as far as Speaker of the House in DC is concerned. From a person who lives in the district that Rep. Daniel Webster is from. He has worked personally with Webster and calls him an honorable, truthful, dedicated Representative who tells it like it is”

          • All that is fine, but you need the collegiality, the love of the House and how it varies from the Senate, its traditions, a broad relationship base… I want regular order-as I so often say–not this ad hoc let’s shut everything down nonsense.

          • Say what? ;+}.
            One of my neighbors is an ex- professional wrestler. Lou “The Hammerhead” Buduski. I am supporting him for the Speaker of the House position. He says he’ll think about it.

          • Star says:
            October 9, 2015, 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm

            The problem is Star, as we are seeing, that sometimes that “collegiality, the love of the House …traditions…regular order”, turns into a cabal, locking people out of the collegiality, and so forth. That is what happened. And it forced a change.

            We are into instant gratification — and this will take longer.

            IMO, the great failure was lack of a plan as to who to put in Boehner’s place. Or a Plan B.

          • I maintain that the House will still be a “club”–but we need it to be a club with better rules and policies. There will always be a need for understanding of its traditions–someone said on TV we need a Speaker who will twist arms and break legs…Well, be sure this person is doing this in the cause of something you favor. To me–that would be enforcement of regular order, allowing amendments up or down, sending things to Obama to veto sometimes–then outing the issues, working with the Senate…having a plan, working smart.

    • We have the same issue in my district in Maine. Our Congressman, Bruce Poliquin, who ran as a more or less conservative in the last election, now has a Conservative Review score of F. We got screwed again.

  4. My take just from the “shows” is that Chaffetz is not too well liked or respected, Issa was on putting out feelers but ditto for him, and Ryan–everyone dissed him when he ran for VP but now they love him? Apparently he does not want the travel, the fundraising, the infighting–and I think the country is better off with him at Ways and Means.

  5. Thanks Keith !
    Jim Jordan is a lot like Trey Gowdy from what I have seen of him.
    I don’t think he would take any guff from Obama or the dems.

    Allen West would also make a good Speaker, IMO.

  6. Frank Luntz was almost crying yesterday on Fox News…blathering on how McCarthy was the best man for the job & the only one with the ability to “work with the other side” and get things done. He then derided the House conservatives who are “holding the Republican party hostage” – saying now is not the time for an amateur, and they will pay for it dearly in 2016.

    It was an odd and pathetic display.

  7. Chaos! Chaos! OMG, such chaos! The applecart has been kicked over, the horses have bucked their traces, the inmates are running the asylum!
    When is the Establishment GOP going to realize that the voters do not want them and their fancy, two-faced shenanigans anymore? How much longer will they choose to be deaf, dumb and blind to the will of The People.
    The GOP’ers who are publicly decrying and shaming the Conservatives who would not get behind McCarthy, should themselves, be shamed.
    They would rather eat their own and hand power to the DemonRats, than change their fusty, musty useless ways.
    I am glad this is going on. We need this shake-up.
    You cannot make an Omelet without breaking some eggs.

  8. Well with the chaos in the mid-east going on, I can’t help that this chaos in the House is just another squirrel thrown out by the White House to distract us.

    Call me cynical,….go right ahead.
    It doesn’t bother me in the least.

    • Maybe. They look at the team running and can’t imagine supporting any of them, while MrsClinton would give them cover for doing, well, nothing controversial.
      Looking back, FOX still hasn’t explained why they singled out MrTrump at the first debate – who are they secretly supporting for President? Except for a few show leaders, there isn’t much love for tea party politics, nor for a real conservative from the rest of the star lineup.
      MrTrump’s support, not the man himself, has upset everything they thought was going to happen in what they felt was going to be a standard, boring election.
      If Jeb! had the poll numbers that MrTrump garners, the Repubs would be content and encouraging the low polling people to do the “right thing” and drop out of the race.
      Who knows what is really swirling under the radar at the MSM, the Repub conclaves, or even in the Dem’s rank and file.

        • The other nite, on some blab, he was stumbling on and on with his flight of ideas type rhetoric, this tangent, that one, this partial sentence, the me me me, not treated fairly, I am beating everyone..You know how he does. I remembered a time at the beginning of my career as a reporter–I was interviewing a lawyer who kept layering on complete droning paragraph after paragraph–I blurted out, “Please stop talking.” Silence. Then he laughed–he could really have gotten me in trouble. This is how I feel about Trump…please please make it stop. By the way, now he thinks he looks bad in his People cover photo.

        • And then there’s Dr. Ben. Has he even given a cogent reason as to what he is doing in this race??? Did he get lost on the way to the operating room?
          He needs to move on – he’s taking up valuable space.

          • I started right out listening to what he actually murmured–weird material. He seems sly. I don’t get it, either–I am retired, might as well be president? His wife says he’s perfect–then she says he is distracted at times, can’t see his nose on his face. The non-listening guy–gotta love him.

        • He wants to solve problems and says problem-solving ability applies across many different situations. Not sure that is true, even as far as it goes. It takes training and experience to operate on people and it also takes training and experience to run huge bureaucracies, fight foreign forces, outwit potentates, manage a dodgy economy, grasps change the tax system, communicate all this clearly as it goes along, etc. Just being nice-sounding, having overcome poverty, and being a pioneer in a narrow area of medicine, and not being trained and experienced (which somehow these people think is a plus) is not enough.