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McClintock On the Election of House Speaker

I am disappointed in Mr. Boehner’s leadership of the House and have expressed my concerns on many occasions. But shifting this decision from the House Republican Conference to the House Floor opens a Pandora’s Box.

The election of the House Speaker is a decision that is made by the House majority caucus. That decision is then enacted through a formal vote on the House floor by the unanimous action of that majority.

The Republican majority voted at its November meeting to re-elect John Boehner as Speaker after no member stepped forward to challenge him. Some have suggested now shifting that decision from the House Republican Conference to the House floor, where 29 Republicans can combine with Democrats to thwart it.

Conservatives should beware. On its worst day, the collective judgment of the Republican majority is much more conservative than that of the overall House membership. Shattering Republican unity in the election of Speaker is not likely to end with a more conservative alternative, but rather with a coalition of the most liberal House Republicans and House Democrats.

This happened in the California Assembly in 1994. Dissident Republicans broke with the Republican majority on the vote for Speaker, enlisting the votes of minority Democrats in exchange for a wholesale transfer of power. Though voters had elected a Republican majority, this coalition effectively gave Democrats control of the Assembly.

The proper place to contest a Republican speaker is in the House Republican Conference. At any meeting, a member may put a no-confidence motion to the conference and, if adopted, set the stage for a House vote to vacate the office and elect a successor. However, this requires every member of the Conference to respect the collective decision – a long-enduring precedent that would be destroyed by the proposed strategy. I cannot support it.