After realizing that the Tea Party would never like him and meeting with the Pope, John Boehner decided to quit being Speaker of the House with a year left before the next elections in the political equivalent of:
It might be a measure of just how accurately he estimated the level of appreciation his colleagues had for him since Democrats predictably said between the lines that he should feel free to let the door hit his ass on the way out, while Republicans didn’t even try to talk him out of it. Instead his own party quickly set about devouring itself to see who could clamber atop the soon to be vacant throne.
The early front runner was House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who torpedoed his own chances by publicly admitting what everyone already knew: that the purpose of his Benghazi house committee was simply to try to screw over Hillary. He also rapidly ran into trouble because a highly informed American electorate was still pissed at him for lying about 9/11 and not appreciating Jenny enough. He removed himself from consideration yesterday, sending the Republican Party in the House into a tailspin, and when asked why responded:
At this point, there’s basically chaos. There are no clear front runners, and maybe a few weeks to go. It’s important to emphasize that this is a bizarre occurrence in American history. Votes for the Speaker are almost always foregone conclusions. Congress is seated, the party with more seats sticks their dude in the position. Easy peasy. And in case you forgot the lessons of West Wing when John Goodman saved Zoe from terrorists, the Speaker of the House is not just an organizational sort of thing. It’s the person second in line for the presidency, right after the Vice President.
So the fact that there’s just not a front-runner is almost unprecedented, but to top it off, even weeks after Boehner’s announcement, there aren’t really any politicians even actively campaigning for the position with McCarthy, who himself is very junior and an odd initial front-runner given he’s only been in Congress for eight years.
This has led to a wonderful Constitutional moment that previously has been an obscure enough fact to be present in only the most challenging of bar trivia nights: the Constitution does not actually say that the Speaker has to be a member of the House of Representatives.
Oh, I live for political moments like this, they’re just so delicious.
The Speaker of the House was legally created in Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution, but the filling of the position is left very vague, saying only “The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker…”
Naturally, the reason this hit the news late yesterday was the fact that Newt Gingrich realized this. Despite having not been in office for nearly 17 years, he took to the air waves like an anti-particle of Sherman, declaring without being asked that he would accept the Speakership if offered to him.
He even compares himself to George Washington.
In all likelihood, this is all moot, the Republicans will get their act together and then go through the normal process. But this glimpse at the possibilities of actual parliamentary style deal-cutting in the legislature just looms with potential power plays and tactical opportunities.
What if a moderate minority of Republicans nominate a centrist with Democratic support in exchange for political capital? What if an outsider like Gingrich or Huckabee or someone similar is brought in to be a symbolic Speaker of the House. What if they say screw it, and just bring in one of the Fox News talking heads to look pretty and swing the gavel? Or make Nate Silver Speaker in order to capture his witchcraft for future elections? What if they REALLY say screw it and nominate Putin just to piss everybody off. There’s not even anything in there that says it has to be an American citizen. Or alive. What if they elect Jesus?
What if they decide to solve one problem by creating another and give the Speakership to Donald Trump in order to get him out of the presidential race before he destroys the party in the general election?
Politics is my favorite sport and spring training just started six months early this season.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.