Comedy fans rejoice! “Curly” has joined “Moe” and “Larry” in the race to become the next Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. (I write this with sincere apologies to those paragons of American comedy, Moe Howard, Curly Howard, and Larry Fine.)
Utah representative Jason Chaffetz announced on Fox News Sunday that he is running to replace John Boehner as Speaker. This gives the GOP a trio of candidates for the post that represents the current variety of Republican philosophy: Tea Party, Tea Party, and Tea Party.
Chaffetz joins current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and Daniel Webster of Florida in the competition to be the next chief cat-herder of the group affectionately known as the Republican caucus. Most insiders say that McCarthy will be the likely winner, at least when Republicans vote for their choice on Thursday, but it’s unclear whether he will be able to get the 218 votes needed when the full House votes. Conservatives are unhappy with him, even though the Tea Party was instrumental in his rise to power. McCarthy has also proven to not be a particularly coherent public speaker.
Webster is the likely choice of many Tea Partiers. He tried unsuccessfully to stage a coup against Boehner when the House voted on a Speaker at the start of this session in January. In 2012, a Wonkette headline announced: “Let’s Make Fun Of Rep. Daniel Webster, For Being Bad At Congress.” Webster at the time was trying to get rid of the American Community Survey, based on privacy concerns. This is the same guy who has voted repeatedly to reauthorize the USA PATRIOT Act.
The Ocala Star Banner gave Florida native son Webster a tepid endorsement for the job in an October 3 editorial, where they had this to say:
Though still portrayed as a long shot to prevail over McCarthy, Webster might be what the House, and the country, needs right now. Yes, Webster is conservative. Staunchly so. But he is also principled, respectful and concerned about the operation and image of Congress as an institution.
But Webster has a potential problem. There has been an ongoing fight in Florida over congressional district boundaries. This coming week, a state circuit court judge will issue a ruling that could result in Webster winding up in a district that is more Democratic than the one he currently represents.
So now Chaffetz makes three in the race. The 48-year-old comes to the competition fresh from looking like a fool in the Planned Parenthood
witchhunt hearing, and thinks that he is ready to be second in line to the presidency. According to Fox News, Chaffetz has been unhappy with the divide among GOP members in the House. “I’m offering myself as an alternative,” Chaffetz said. “I think I can bridge that divide.”
Chaffetz is one of those who doesn’t think that Kevin McCarthy has the votes to win the Speaker’s job. That is, assuming that some Democrats don’t decide to push McCarthy over the 218 vote threshold because they see him as the least evil of the candidates. Chaffetz had this to say:
“[T]here’s really a math problem. You need 218 votes on the floor of the House. There’s 246 Republicans that will vote, but there are nearly 50 people and a growing number that will not and cannot vote for Kevin McCarthy as the speaker on the floor. He’s going to fall short of the 218 votes on the floor of House.”
In case you have forgotten, Chaffetz embarrassed himself in an exchange with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards when he displayed a wildly inaccurately drawn chart that was intended to “prove” that Planned Parenthood is focusing on abortions over women’s health services. Politifact awarded Chaffetz’ chart and his assertion a “Pants On Fire” rating.
Then there was the congressman’s other moment of brilliance, when he demanded that the Surgeon General take charge of U.S. anti-ebola efforts during the scare over that disease last year. The problem? At the time, there was no Surgeon General. The post was vacant because Republicans were blocking the nomination of Vivek Murthy over his stance on guns.
Get out your popcorn. This could get interesting.
Here’s Chaffetz’ announcement, via Fox News: