Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Queen for... 6 Hours?

It's no longer enough to churn through speakers-designate at the rate of one per day. Yesterday, the House Republican Conference managed to drop a refrigerator on one speaker-designate in the first part of the day, and then to replace him with a different speaker-designate in the second part of the day.

For roughly 6 hours yesterday, your speaker-designate was House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN). He triumphed after several rounds of secret voting that whittled a list of eight contenders down to one. You had to figure that, of the options that had not already been rejected (i.e., Kevin McCarthy, R-CA; Steve Scalise, R-LA; and Jim Jordan, R-OH), he had the best chance to win the gavel. After all, counting votes, and bringing holdouts into line, is literally his job.

There was only one small fly in the ointment, however: Donald Trump is angry at Emmer. Why? Well, it is true that the Representative did not vote to reject electoral votes in 2020, and that he did vote to keep the government open a few weeks ago, and that he's OK with same-sex marriage. These things were problems for some of the Freedom Caucusers, but they are apparently not what set the former president off. No, the big problem is that Emmer sent a tweet on Monday, in response to a Trump video, that said: "Thank you, Mr. President. If my colleagues elect me Speaker of the House, I look forward to continuing our strong working relationship."

The truth is that Emmer and Trump have a very up-and-down relationship, and that Emmer is nowhere as close to the former president as the tweet implies. Trump has no problem telling lies himself, but he's outraged when others do it, particularly when those lies endeavor to steal some of his mojo. So, after seeing the tweet, Trump fired up his boutique social media platform and sent this:

I have many wonderful friends wanting to be Speaker of the House, and some are truly great Warriors. RINO Tom Emmer, who I do not know well, is not one of them. He fought me all the way, and actually spent more time defending Ilhan Omar, than he did me—He is totally out-of-touch with Republican Voters. I believe he has now learned his lesson, because he is saying that he is Pro-Trump all the way, but who can ever be sure? Has he only changed because that's what it takes to win? The Republican Party cannot take that chance, because that's not where the America First Voters are. Voting for a Globalist RINO like Tom Emmer would be a tragic mistake!

Trump then started working the phones, making clear to allies in the House that voting for Emmer was unacceptable. With a reported 26 hard "no" votes, Emmer—who, again, knows how to count to 217—knew it was hopeless and dropped out. Again, Trump can't get a person elected speaker, but he can certainly stop a person from getting elected. The amount of time between "Tweet brought to Trump's attention" and "Emmer is out" was roughly 3 hours.

Thereafter it was back to the drawing board. And after another round of Ranked Choice Voting disguised as "not Ranked Choice Voting," your newest speaker-designate is Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA). He is in the midst of his fourth term, and is Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference. That's a leadership position, so he's not exactly a backbencher, but he's also not well known to most of his colleagues. And he might or might not be a member of the Freedom Caucus. For various reasons, the FC treats itself as something of a secret society—it does not publish a list of members, does not answer questions about exactly who is a member and, in fact, generally doesn't meet in the Capitol (preferring to congregate at local watering holes, instead). So, some sources say Johnson is a member, some say he isn't, and there's no good way to make certain. If he's not a member in name, he's certainly a member in spirit, as he's very far right and shares the group's general anti-government outlook. That said, unlike most FCers, he's known for being genial and collegial.

In other words, what we basically have here is a kinder, gentler Jim Jordan who has no known sex scandals lurking in the background. Will that be tolerable to 217 members of the House Republican Conference? The early indications are mixed. In the final round of the pseudo-RCV that named Johnson speaker-designate, there were also 30+ votes for Kevin McCarthy, who was not on the ballot and was not a valid choice. Thereafter, Johnson asked for a closed-doors roll-call vote to see if the Conference would support his candidacy on the floor of the House. In that vote, there were three "present" votes and 22 members who did not bother to attend. Not promising for Johnson, but at least things are moving in the right direction for him, since 25 protest votes are fewer than 30+.

If Johnson comes up short, then the Republican Conference is toying with an idea wherein McCarthy would be returned to the speakership and Jordan would be named his associate speaker. The only way this makes sense is if it allows both sides to save face, declare victory, and get back to the hard work of not governing. Otherwise, if Jordan has any actual powers as associate speaker, then it will make it that much harder to do anything, and will likely leave the House right back where they are now within months or weeks. And if Jordan has no powers as associate speaker, then he's going to get cranky, which will likely leave the House right back where they are now within months or weeks.

The Democrats, meanwhile, are doing what they can to squeeze some amusement out of the clown show. On Monday night, party operatives projected this video on the side of the National Gallery of Art East Building, which is down the street from the Capitol:

After the welcome message, it displays images of McCarthy, Jordan, Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Bozo. And you thought Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J were an insane clown posse.

By this time tomorrow, we could well have a new speaker. Or, we might have burned through two, three, even four more speakers-designate. With this reality show, you're always kept guessing. If the Republicans could figure out how to run ads or get corporate sponsors, like a real TV show, they could raise some money for the Party. (Z)

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