It's by no means certain at this point that the Democrats will gain control of the House of Representatives in 27 days, but you certainly have to like their chances. Looking at recent polling, I think you can identify 8-10 House seats that are very likely Democratic takeovers. And given the inability of the GOP to focus debate and discussion on 'their issues' (national security, taxes, immigration), and the possibility that the media will continue to focus on the Foley mess, you can't be particularly optimistic of a change in fortune. All-in-all, I suspect that the Democrats are closer to a 25 seat gain than they are a 15 seat gain.
Which begs the question: what can the GOP do to change the dynamic?
I have a solution: one of those ideas that's too inventive and brilliant ever to be tried. Four words: House Speaker Rudy Giuliani.
Now before you laugh me out of the room, hear me out. As Roll Call explained yesterday, if Dennis Hastert vacates the speakership, the Speaker pro tempore will be the first person named on the list of successors he has placed in the trust of the House Clerk. Here is the relevant House rule:
3) (a) In the case of a vacancy in the office of Speaker, the next Member on the list described in subdivision (b) shall act as Speaker pro tempore until the election of Speaker or a Speaker pro tempore. Pending such election the Member acting as Speaker pro tempore may exercise such authorities of the Office of Speaker as may be necessary and appropriate to that end.
(b) As soon as practicable after his election and whenever he deems appropriate thereafter, the Speaker shall deliver to the Clerk a list of Members in the order in which each shall act as Speaker pro tempore under subdivision (a).
(c) For purposes of subdivision (a), a vacancy in the office of Speaker may exist by reason of the physical inability of the Speaker to discharge the duties of the office.
Since Hastert can change the names on the list any time he wishes, why doesn't he name Giuliani as his successor, and then vacate the office? Speaker pro tempore Giuliani would serve until the House met again to name a successor - some time after the election.
The only glitch here is that House rules specify that the successor shall be a Member [of the House], but of course, the Constitution does not require that ("The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker..."). It's probably an oversight in the drafting of the rule. I doubt it matters much anyway.
Speaker Giuliani could promise to stand for election as Speaker again in the new Congress. He'd be a better public figure than Hastert as the face of the Congressional GOP. People would be more likely to trust him to root out corruption in Congress (although that's not a slam dunk). And he'd be a strong and credible figure on terrorism and national security. It's a win-win-win!
And what would Giuliani get? Well, a few years as Speaker would give him a chance to build up chits for a Presidential run. He could take credit for legislative accomplishments in the House on his watch, and demonstrate to wary social conservatives that given a position of responsiblity, he would not use it to advance a liberal agenda on gay rights or abortion.
What do you think?
Back to the top.