Speaker of the House: Any takers?

If you are a political junkie (like me), today was a very exciting day for you.  But if you are a political junkie who happens to also be a Republican, then perhaps your excitement is somewhat mitigated by the utter soul-crushing disarray (to put it charitably) of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives.  Of course, I am referring to the decision of Kevin McCarthy to bow out of the race for Speaker of the House, leaving House Republicans currently with no one who can garner enough support to ensure a Republican speakership.  Not wanting Nancy Pelosi to be elected the next Speaker, then, John Boehner must remain in the job until the Party can find someone who will have at least 218 votes on the floor.  This is what happens when those who simply want to complain about governing get in the way of the actual governance of a great Nation.  That is a task that is difficult and complex, one that requires sober judgment and the character to work effectively with political friends and foes alike.  Conservatives are supposed to understand this.  They are supposed to understand the importance of good order, prudence, and stability.  The complainers – who fancy themselves “conservatives,” though many of them are no such thing – love to talk about what they call “principles.”  But principles without judgment are useless.

A few quick additional observations.

First, it has been suggested that Republicans look outside of the House for a Speaker.  The Constitution does not state that the Speaker must be a Representative, or even a Member of Congress at all.  And yet every Speaker has been a Representative.  I have wondered all afternoon if there is a structural argument for saying that the Speaker must be a Representative; there certainly is historical practice to that effect.  But I cannot get past the textual opening in Article I.  And if the Speaker need not be a Representative, then the Speaker need not satisfy the Qualifications Clause in Article I, which applies only to Representatives and Senators.  All that said, I find it impossible to believe that Republicans would choose this option.  It’s really just a fun hypothetical.

Second, I would not be surprised if Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin wakes up in the morning (if he even sleeps tonight) and resigns himself to the fact that he is the only sitting Representative who can unite the Party in the House.  There are a mountain of reasons for him not to take the job, not the least of which is the headache of satisfying various competing coalitions, the time away from family, and the realization that striking any compromise with Democrats and President Obama – no matter how important to the country – will be treated by Party extremists as treachery, and doom his political future.  And yet, I cannot help but wonder whether the pressure to take the job will finally be too much to resist.

Finally, with respect to today’s story, I wonder if there is another shoe about to drop.


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