Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hastert's Successor Already Selected

Update: Can anyone tell me why so many people are searching 'Hasterts Successor?'

Roll Call (subscription required) points out that if Dennis Hastert resigns his speakership, his succesor has already been selected. Purusant to a House rule change designed to ensure continuity in Congress, Hastert has already selected him (or her):

Next Speaker? Check the List
October 10, 2006
By Susan Davis,
Roll Call Staff

While the current page scandal and the possibility of a change in House control on Election Day have prompted plenty of speculation about who the next Speaker will be, the real answer might just be locked away in a safe in the office of the House Clerk.

Inside that vault is a list of Members — known only to a handful of people — who would take over the Speaker’s post in the case of an immediate vacancy.

First written into House rules in the 108th Congress during the continuity of Congress reforms necessitated by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the line of succession provision could be triggered for the first time if Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) — under fire from the still-unfolding scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley’s (R-Fla.) interaction with House pages — took the unlikely step of resigning his office before the start of the next session.

If Hastert left the Speaker’s office immediately, for whatever reason, the first Member on the list — which was written by Hastert himself — would be elevated to Speaker Pro Tem and could act with all of the constitutional authority vested in the office, until the Congress could convene to duly elect a Speaker by the full House.

After weathering a scathing week of criticism piled on him and his top aides over how Republican leaders handled their response to a 2005 e-mail exchange between a former House page and Foley, Hastert appears secure to hold onto his office at least through the end of the 109th Congress...

If Hastert were forced out before the elections, the vacancy would trigger the succession provision and a Member, who is not known to the public, would be elevated to the office. Sources, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic, said it was unlikely the House would reconvene before Nov. 7 and a Speaker Pro Tem could preside over the House because the chamber is in recess until Nov. 13.

Presumably, a new Speaker would be determined by the Republican Conference if the GOP retains the majority on Nov. 15, when leadership elections are scheduled, and would be duly elected by the full House on the first day of the new session in January...

Even if Republicans retain the majority, it remains to be seen if Hastert can hold on to the office. The Speaker must be elected by a majority of the full House, and it would take only a handful of GOP Members in a tightly divided House to end his tenure if they threaten to oppose him on the floor. There is no clear consensus candidate for Speaker in that scenario at this point. If Democrats win a majority of seats, Hastert is expected to retire, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) would be Speaker.

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