The Speaker of the House horserace now wide open

Topic A LogoBy Bob Eschliman


After House Majority Leader U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy withdrew his candidacy to replace U.S. Rep. John Boehner as Speaker of the House, the lamestream media was quick to suggest the House Republican Caucus was suddenly in chaos.

No. For once, the speakership is actually up for grabs, and anyone can feel free to take a shot at it. So, in all likelihood, they will. But just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

The Constitution requires a Speaker of the House to serve as the presiding officer. Every Speaker in the history of the House of Representatives has been an elected member of Congress, and with the advent of the political parties, the Speaker was a member of the majority party.

However, the Constitution doesn’t require that the Speaker be a voting member of the body. Here’s what it says:

The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.

— Article I, Section 2, Clause 5

So, now you not only have every leading Republican “name” in the House vying for the job, but you have a couple of outsiders jockeying for the position, as well. So let’s take a look at the potential Speakers and what they might bring to the table:

  1. Paul Ryan — The former vice presidential nominee is the new establishment “it” guy who will, more or less, maintain the status quo of GOP capitulation to President Obama, if elected. Conservatives, in general, are not enthusiastic about him, especially with the news coming out that he’s pro-amnesty. But, as we saw in January, the Freedom Caucus doesn’t yet have the votes to overcome a candidate the establishment has gotten behind. Conservative Review rating: 58%
  2. Daniel Webster — With a name like Daniel Webster, you immediately think of someone who should have the chops to be Speaker of the House. In this case, we’re talking about the distant relative of the northern representative of the Great Triumvirate who also happens to have an impressive resume of his own in Florida. As Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, he made a number of changes that many observers say are sorely needed in Washington. His biggest problem is his voting record. Conservative Review rating: 64%
  3. Jason Chaffetz — He’s got a voting record many conservatives like, but he’s also “fallen in line with leadership” at some of the most inopportune times. He may not even be sticking it out to the eventual Speaker election, based on recent comments suggesting he thinks Ryan would make a “wonderful Speaker.” Conservative Review rating: 82%
  4. Jeb Hensarling — Formerly a member of the House Republican Caucus leadership, he stepped aside when Eric Cantor was forced to step down after losing his primary in 2014. He declined to run when Boehner announce his resignation, but he’s been much quieter since McCarthy dropped out. He’s a formidable fundraiser, and very popular with conservatives in the Freedom Caucus. Conservative Review rating: 73%
  5. Ron Paul — There are many in the grassroots who believe an outsider is needed to clean up the House. Those of the Liberty persuasion believe it should be someone who is a strong constitutionalist, and there are few who fit that bill as well as former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul. The biggest question would be whether or not he could get the Republican Caucus to follow his lead.
  6. Newt Gingrich — The rest of those who believe an outsider view is needed to fix what ails the House of Representatives think bringing the former Speaker of the House out of mothballs would be the shot in the arm the House Republicans need right now. He knows how to do the job, and was extremely effective in the role, but the events leading up to his own resignation in the 1990s are likely to leave a bitter taste with many in the party.

Based on what’s being said by Republicans in the House, it seems anyone could win the seat. The magic number is 218 — the number of votes needed in the official Speaker election in the House as a whole — and without it, there won’t be an official election held in the House.

The bad news: in the meantime, Boehner has announced he will delay his own resignation until the party settles upon a replacement Speaker. That means the GOP capitulation will continue in the short term.