How Do the House Speaker Candidates Stack Up?

“We’re public servants. I have always put this Conference and Country ahead of myself. We need to unite behind one leader and get to work.”  — Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)


Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL)

As you all know by now, the House Republican Conference’s plans for last Thursday (10/8) had some last-minute changes. They were supposed to have their closed-door, secret ballot to nominate one of their own for the soon-to-be-vacant Speaker of the House seat. The three official candidates were Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). But, much to the surprise of just about everyone, frontrunner McCarthy announced over lunch that he was pulling out of the race.

McCarthy purportedly saw the writing on the wall after 80% of the ~40-member House Freedom Caucus agreed to endorse Webster. (Note 1: To ensure that the Democratic nominee does not win, the Republican nominee cannot lose more than 28 Republican votes — assuming everyone is present and chooses to vote. Note 2: The FC’s members are not bound to vote as a bloc in Oct. 29th’s public vote by the entire House. ) Certainly, McCarthy’s ill-advised, recent comment that the Benghazi select committee’s investigations were merely a political attack on Hillary Clinton did not help his campaign, and it was a “final straw” for some FC members.

McCarthy stated that he didn’t want to be a divisive figure and that Republicans need to find “a new face” to unite around, but there have also been rumors of possible skeletons in his closet that would be subject to exposure should he continue in the race. Regardless of whether McCarthy bowed out due to potential scandal or something much less salacious, John Boehner’s heir-apparent is out of the running. So, now what?

Some call the resulting uncertainty “chaos” or “disarray”. While that may be partly true, I think it makes things more interesting — like the current list of GOP presidential candidates — and indicates that a non-Establishment candidate might actually have a shot, which is precisely what a growing number of right-leaning citizens want. I just hope the Conference can work out their issues and rally behind someone reasonably quickly; otherwise, a) it will become very distracting from other issues and b) Boehner will stick around longer than his planned Oct. 30 exit date.

Lots of names are being thrown around with varying degrees of conservativeness — is that a word? — and possibility. A couple former Congressmen who are (again) being suggested are Newt Gingrich and Allen B. West. I’m not sure if these suggestions are being taken seriously by the House or the individuals in question, but I would be thrilled with either one. Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, is another “outsider” mentioned that could be a great choice for Speaker.

Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL)

Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL)

In a piece for Newsmax, John Gizzi proposed “7 Potential Speakers of the House”: Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL), Rep. Pete Roskam (R-IL), Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID). Like Phil Burress, chairman of Citizens for Community Values, I have stated before that I think Jordan — current chair of the Freedom Caucus — would be an excellent choice. Ryan has said repeatedly he would not run, preferring to continue to chair the powerful Ways and Means Committee, but he continues to be pressured (inc. by Boehner and Gowdy). From what I’ve read, most of the rest on that list are hoping for either the #2 (Majority Leader) or #3 (Majority Whip) post; but, with McCarthy presumably remaining as Majority Leader, those plans could change. Efforts to convince the popular Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to run have failed. I have also seen mentioned as possibilities Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Rep. Pete King (R-NY) (Lord, no!), and relative newcomer Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL).

To get some idea of how consistently the above Congressmen vote, I thought I would check out how they scored (i.e., lifetime or most current session available) with a few conservative thinktanks/organizations. (I threw in Boehner and McCarthy for comparison.)

HA = Heritage Action; lifetime, 2011-present
CfG = Club for Growth; lifetime, 2005-present
ACU = American Conservative Union; lifetime, 1971?-2014
FW = FreedomWorks; lifetime, 2005-present
AfP = American for Prosperity; lifetime, 2007-present
SBEC = Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council; 2013-2014
CSP = Center for Security Policy; 2013-2014
NUSA = NumbersUSA; 1989-present
CR = Conservative Review; Liberty Score is based on the top 50 votes over the past six years.

# All numeric scores based on possible 100. #

  Date Assumed Office HA CfG ACU FW AfP SBEC CSP NUSA CR
Boehner* 01/03/91 * 83 83.37 89 60 * 50 B F 37%
Chaffetz 01/03/09 81 90 92.17 88 89 100 88 A- B 82%
Clawson 06/25/14 88 98 N/a 90 100 100 100 A+ A 91%
Cole 01/03/03 46 68 84.67 68 84 95 96 A- F 46%
Gowdy 01/03/11 87 95 97 91 96 100 93 A- B 85%
Hensarling 01/03/03 84 95 97.64 91 93 100 93 A C 73%
Jordan 01/03/07 94 98 100 96 99 100 93 A- A 94%
King 01/03/93 39 50 71.55 55 69 100 92 C F 35%
Labrador 01/03/11 87 94 93.96 92 97 100 73 A- A 95%
McCarthy 01/03/07 53 73 88.63 71 86 100 93 B F 45%
McMorris Rodgers 01/03/05 53 72 87.3 72 83 100 89 B- F 48%
Price 01/03/05 79 92 96.4 90 93 100 93 A C 72%
Roskam 01/03/07 57 70 87 71 85 100 93 B+ F 58%
Ryan 01/03/99 63 83 90 81 84 100 93 B- F 58%
Scalise 05/03/08 72 89 97.71 89 96 100 89 B C 74%
Webster 01/03/11 66 67 78.83 64 80 100 96 A+ D 64%

*Note: The Speaker of the House doesn’t normally vote, so Boehner’s lifetime scores are as of 2010. Heritage doesn’t provide one, for example, but it couldn’t have been too high, since he has voted contrary to the Heritage position on almost all of the major bills since.

Besides the truly conservative bona fides that many want to see, there are various other personal and professional qualities that many are looking for in our new Speaker, as well. Much of the frustration with Boehner’s leadership was not so much on policy — though there was that, too, sometimes — but on matters of procedure and leadership style. The need for process reform, regular order, and rules changes comes up a lot. Rather than survey several politicians and pundits for quotes on this, I decided to end by quoting Allen West, who lays out a darn good list of preferred qualifications:

Lt. Col. Allen B. West (Ret.)

Lt. Col. Allen B. West (Ret.)

“The next Speaker of the House of Representatives must restore that body to be the premier legislative body the Founding Fathers intended it to be…. The next Speaker of the House must be a brilliant constitutional strategist and tactician and make the progressive socialists defend their failed ideology…. A new Speaker of the House of Representatives must be a principled, resolute leader who will truly be the ‘voice of the American Republic’ and a person who will restore the rule of law and the sovereignty of the individual. We need someone who can delineate between the policies that promote the opportunity society as opposed to the dependency society…. A new Speaker of the House of Representatives must come in with a clearly understood battle plan – a policy agenda — that can be articulated to the everyday American citizen…. The new Speaker of the House cannot be invisible but must be as known to the American people and clearly seen as the defender of the Republic and its honor. This new speaker must be fearless and willing to take on the political elite cabal of Washington DC along with the liberal progressive media elites. There is only one interest this new Speaker must have, and that is the American interest, the interest of our children and grandchildren…. The next Speaker of the House of Representatives need not be a politician but rather a defender of American principles, a servant leader.”  — Lt. Col. Allen B. West (Ret.), former U.S. Congressman (R-FL)


Personally, I would prefer someone with consistently strong conservative marks (e.g., Jordan). Realistically, though, if necessary to unite the party and get enough votes, we may have to be satisfied with someone who is somewhat more moderate (e.g., Ryan) but who hopefully does a decent job of meeting West’s requirements.

P.S.  The fact that Webster, Clawson, and West (until recently) all hail from my home state of Florida has nothing to do with my using their pics. Nope. Nothing at all. Promise.


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