With the Republican capitulation on tax increases to avert the fiscal cliff, no spending cuts or deficit reduction in sight, and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voting down Hurricane Sandy relief, which received sharp criticism from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Speaker of the House John Boehner might be on the cusp of losing his speakership.
Despite five consecutive trillion dollar deficits, 23,000,000 unemployed Americans, and 48,000,000 Americans on food stamps, Barack Obama was able to win a second term. Democrats added to their majority in the Senate, and narrowed the Republican lead in the House. The recent fiscal cliff deal not only increased taxes, betraying a GOP pledge, it passed because of GOP defections, joining a largely unified Democratic minority.
As a House divided against itself cannot stand, the Republican Party needs something of a figurehead for its survival. More than that, it must stand on principle, because if the GOP increases taxes but doesn’t bother to cut spending, you might as well vote Democratic.
So who could replace Boehner as the 62nd Speaker of the House?
His chief lieutenants are the expected candidates. Eric Cantor is the Majority Leader, and would perhaps be the best known candidate. The Jewish representative from Virginia has been in Congress since 2001. Much of his fiscal and social policies would appeal to conservatives, and he’s fourteen years younger than Boehner. While Boehner supported the fiscal cliff deal, Cantor cast his vote against it.
Kevin McCarthy is the Majority Whip of the House, and next in line behind Cantor. McCarthy was Minority Leader of the California State Assembly before being elected to Congress in 2006. If Cantor would be too controversial a replacement for Boehner, McCarthy might be the logical pick. He also voted against the fiscal cliff deal.
While his name isn’t being floated for candidacy, Darrell Issa, another California Republican, might be a viable candidate. He may be too busy for the job, being Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but what better job experience could one have? He knows all the players, and from challenging the administration on the Fast and Furious gun running program, to seeking to expose government corruption, He would be a fitting Speaker who might take the ideological stand which Boehner does not. He voted against the fiscal cliff deal.
Among the best known names in the House, Minnesota Rep. and 2012 Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann might be interested in the House Speakership. As a staunch advocate of the TEA Party, she would naturally be an important representative in the coming talks on government spending, reducing the deficit and raising the nation’s debt ceiling. She received a degree in tax law from William & Mary School of Law, and served as an attorney for the IRS. Like the above-mentioned candidates, she voted against the fiscal cliff deal. While a Bachmann Speakership would invite a fight, it’d be a message that Republicans aren’t going to lie down.
Another female representative, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is quietly rising in the ranks of GOP leadership. The Washington State Republican is the highest ranking woman in her party in Congress, and is Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference. Former leaders of the House Republican Conference include Boehner, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Presidential candidate Jack Kemp. While she did vote for the fiscal cliff deal, she might not receive the sharp criticism that a Cantor, McCarthy, Issa or Bachmann speakership would. For those interested in such things, National Journal named her one of ten Republicans to follow on Twitter.
Another name worth floating is Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget knows the budget better than anyone, he’d help to articulate the Republican message, and after being Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, we know he could survive in the national spotlight and media attention. While he voted for the fiscal cliff deal, he’s a smart guy and a fighter. If nothing else, at least he’d fill the leadership void and hopefully bring some unity to the GOP.
Last, fittingly, is the dark horse – Jeb Hensarling. Representing Texas in Congress since 2003, he is the chairman of the House Republican Conference. He received a Juris Doctor degree and a bachelor’s degree in economics. Since entering Congress, he’s paid particular attention to the budget, serving as Vice Chair of the Committee on Financial Services, and co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, otherwise known as the Supercommittee. He follows the conservative ideology on social and fiscal policies. He voted against the fiscal cliff deal.
A list of how each House Congressman voted on the fiscal cliff deal can be found here.