Columnist: Is the House in chaos?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 15, 2015

Jeff Brown

Contributing columnist

The unexpected resignation of John Boehner, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, followed by the last minute decision by Kevin McCarthy, majority leader, who was considered the shoo-in as the next speaker to withdraw have given liberal journalists a field day. Headlines such as “House, and a Republican Party, Divided Against Itself,” “House in Chaos” and “Desperate GOP” are examples.

Personally I credit leader McCarthy with recognizing that we need someone to unite a fractured House and for putting aside the typical thirst for power many have for such a lofty position. Remember the Speaker is next after the vice president to succeed the president of the most powerful country in the world.

Another point these journalists conveniently ignore is the depth of the qualified Republican members of Congress who could become speaker. Further there is no requirement for the speaker to be a member of Congress, which is why names such as former speaker Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are being mentioned.

On Friday night one of the members of the small liberal/conservative “think tank” that I periodically mention sent us an email saying, “So, should Paul Ryan agree to become Speaker??? Why or Not???” My response was, “Yes, because he is qualified, understands the process, especially the budget, which is crucial, and his run for vice president insured that he has no skeletons in the closet.”

However before sending that response I sent an email to my good friend Congressman Westmoreland. What follows are three of his responses:

• “Hope you’re sitting down. I’ve thrown my hat in the ring. Would you mind nominating me since it worked last time?”

• “Paul Ryan is obviously the clear favorite and everyone that has thrown their name out would support him.”

• “The only advantage I’ve got over them (the others running) is I know I’m not smart enough without wise counsel from others.”

His comment, “Would you mind nominating me since it worked last time” refers to 2002 when I nominated him for minority leader of the Georgia House against the incumbent and Lynn won.

My response was, “Lynn, I’d be delighted to nominate you! If I were to have such an honor I’d stress your values, consistent conservatism, job you did as minority leader in the Georgia House, how you work well with Democrats, realize that you need wise counsel, how you’d begin to reclaim respect for the House of Representatives and get the Republican majority in the House to be a positive for whomever wins the Republican nomination for president.

Just before reading your response above I read LaGrange College professor John Tures’ column in the weekend LaGrange Daily News titled, “GOP must pick Rodgers for House Speaker.” He briefly covers her qualifications and says she would greatly improve the poor image Republicans have among women.

Further, Tures said of Georgia Congressman Tom Price, “If I was betting, I’d say Rep. Tom Price will win.” As an aside, I served with Price, who is an orthopedic surgeon, very bright and has accomplished a lot during his time as a legislator in Georgia and D.C. However, when McCarthy announced his candidacy for speaker Price solicited votes to replace him as leader and apparently couldn’t garner enough support, so it is doubtful he’d do any better as a candidate for speaker.

The same thing happened to Congresswomen Cathy Rodgers when she tested the waters about being a candidate for leader, so as I predicted regarding Price, I predict it would be even more unlikely she could win as a candidate for speaker.

One of the true benefits of our democracy is the smooth transition of power and this will again be evident once a new speaker is elected. If by chance that person is not up to the task we have an efficient process for replacing her or him.

Speaker Boehner has agreed to stay on as speaker so business as usual will continue as an impressive group of candidates vie to replace him. Despite claims to the contrary, Congress is functioning, budgets are being passed avoiding the shutdown of government and several pieces of major legislation are moving forward with good bipartisan support. Further, the House remains a check on President Obama, so the “sky is not falling!”

Jeff Brown is a retired Georgia state representative where he served as chairman of the House Health Appropriations Committee.