Webster topples McCarthy's speaker bid
Thursday, October 08, 2015
In one of the most unlikely upsets in American political history, Winter Garden's little-known congressman U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster's long shot bid for the speaker's position has topped front-runner U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California.
McCarthy withdrew late this morning after Webster's bid picked up 40 votes from the House Freedom Caucus late Wednesday. That essentially undid any chance he had to be elected speaker to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio.
And Webster said he began picking up some votes from members dedicated to McCarthy, though he is far from closing in on what he needs.
“I’m in the race, running hard,” he told the Orlando Sentinel.
McCarthy’s capitulation leaves Congressional Republicans' attempts to elect a new leadership in chaos. Webster's bid was more of a protest over house rules and procedures than a serious attempt to become one of the most powerful men in the world.
Now with McCarthy out, Webster is one of only two willing candidates.
One owns an air conditioning business in Winter Garden, carries a Bible with him most of the time, and was known for not using email until recently. But he talks passionately about reforming Congressional rules to allow more participation by the rank-and-file, and to create more time to tackle big issues.
The other is U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, a hard-line Tea Party pick who makes plenty of mainstream members of Congress uncomfortable.
U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-St. Petersburg, now believes that Webster may have a real shot to be elected.
“I think that’s good news for Dan Webster, someone I not only had intended to support, but was planning to nominate from the house floor,” Jolly said.
Jolly, who is seeking the Republican nomination to run for a U.S. Senate seat next year, compared the current leadership crisis in Congress with the one that brought U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert to the speaker’s job in 1999.
Hastert, like Webster, was a low-profile member who became a compromise candidate after Newt Gingrich resigned. After Gingrich’s resignation, his heir apparent, Robert Livingston of Louisiana found stern opposition and stepped aside, leading to a moment of chaos. Hastert emerged out of nowhere, Jolly said.
“I think Dan has demonstrated he can lead the Legislature in Florida, and he can lead a Congress,” Jolly said.
“He has a record. He also has the respect of his peers.”
On Thursday the House Republican Caucus canceled a vote after McCarthy withdrew. That means the speaker election likely will come in two weeks, after a Congressional recess.
Webster is a soft-spoken three term Republican who served for decades in the Florida Legislature, earning a reputation as conservative but fair to other points of view.
He served as Florida’s House of Representatives speaker in the late 1990s and overhauled the rules and policies, creating, for his term, one of the few times the chamber operated efficiently.
He left the Florida Senate in 2010 when he was elected to Congress. Since then, he has sponsored little successful legislation. But last fall he circulated a Jerry Maguire-like white paper on how Congress needed to change how it does business. That letter drew interest from a few members, and Webster first ran for speaker in January, drawing a surprising 12 votes in what otherwise was supposed to be a united re-election of Boehner.
He vowed to do the same thing in Congress that he did in the Florida House. But because Webster has little power, no prominent committee seats and one of the least effective records in Congress for sponsoring legislation, his bid was viewed as little more than a symbolic effort some members might join.
As many as 40 joined him Wednesday when the Freedom Caucus announced it was throwing his support behind him to stop McCarthy from getting elected speaker without making major concessions.
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, an Orlando Democrat, also claimed some credit Thursday for stopping McCarthy. Last week McCarthy went on Fox News and admitted that the House Special Committee on Benghazi had been organized to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. On Wednesday Grayson filed an ethics complaint against McCarthy about that. And on Thursday McCarthy said the Benghazi uproar “wasn't helpful” his speaker bid.
Now that McCarthy has made the ultimate concession, abandoning his bid, there is little known about who might emerge as the next speaker, or if Webster might ride his supporters into the forefront.
Jolly said no one else has emerged right away, and it’s possible no one will. There has been a strong effort by House Republicans to draft U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, but Ryan told the New York Times Wednesday he had no interest. Jolly said Ryan might still emerge. Even so, Jolly said he would support Webster.
Neither Jolly nor Webster are members of the House Freedom Caucus and Jolly said Webster would not stand for some of that caucus’s demands, including shutting down the government to fight for conservative principles.
“I’m a governing conservative,” Jolly said. “Dan and I share the same frustration” about those who prefer to not govern to press political principles.
Just weeks ago Webster publicly doubted he could even be re-elected to Congress. The Florida Legislature is under court order to redraw Congressional districts. The plan floated in August changes Webster’s district so much that it flips the balance from being predominantly Republican to being significantly Democratic. That plan is now back in court. And Webster has hinted he could always change districts.
For more information: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/political-pulse/os-websters-bid-upends-mccarthy-20151008-post.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+news%2Fpolitics%2Fpoliticalpulse+%28Central+Florida+Political+Pulse%29