The race to elect the next Speaker of the House is in a state of chaos. The truth is that the anointed successor to Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), does not have the 218 votes required to win the seat in the House vote.
The truth is that nobody does.
McCarthy has a variety of problems, most notably his Benghazi moment. When he framed the Benghazi committee as politically designed, he gave a jolt to Hillary Clinton’s tail-spinning campaign and undermined the authority of the investigative panel.
McCarthy’s stumble and the chaos surrounding the Speaker’s race might be good news for southern states like Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Racial interest groups and left-wing activists have hung their hopes on McCarthy ascending because, in McCarthy, they believe they have a friend to reimpose federal control over state elections in southern states.
They are relying on McCarthy to support amendments to the Voting Rights Act that would place Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia back under federal control as they were before the Supreme Court struck down federal oversight in the 2013 landmark case of Shelby County v. Holder.
Before Shelby County, the Justice Department had used the Voting Rights Act to block voter identification laws in Texas and efforts to purge non-citizens from the voter rolls in Georgia and Florida.
It would be something to see if members from Texas, and from other southern states now in the crosshairs of the racial interest groups, vote for speaker someone whom the institutional left thinks may be the best hope to pass a law to then use against Texas and other southern states.
The speaker is second in line to the presidency. If the president and vice president were to die or leave office, the speaker becomes the president. That fact merits public attention to the speaker’s race.
On Thursday, the race for speaker kicks off when House Republicans pick a nominee to present to the floor. McCarthy may be that nominee, but that doesn’t mean all Republicans will support him on the floor.
There are signs of trouble for the current House leadership team. The number discontent with leadership extends far beyond the “30 House members” figure that defenders of the current House leadership frequently cite as the base of opposition to Boehner.
Recent votes show the number is far larger.
For example, 153 House Republicans recently voted against leadership in voting against a continuing budget resolution. This was the vote that prompted Boehner’s departure.
The reasons for the discontent aren’t hard to find. On multiple occasions, leadership has advanced legislation without the majority of the House Republicans in agreement. In other words, the GOP House leadership has jettisoned the Hastert Rule, repeatedly.
Many in the House also want to see a return to regular order of the sort that characterized Republican control in the 1990s. They want budget and appropriations recommendations actually followed, not merely ignored late in the legislative game by leadership.
But the bigger question hanging over the speaker’s race is who is in charge of the federal budget process. Should the budget primarily be the will of the House, as the Constitution contemplates? Or, does President Obama dictate budget priorities?
This fundamental question hangs over the race because the current House leadership, scared of a government shutdown like Puritans in Plymouth feared witches, have allowed President Obama to dictate budget terms.
This fundamental question also hangs over America.