RAWA Co-Sponsor Jason Chaffetz Seeks to Become Speaker of the House
Jason Chaffetz, who introduced Restore America’s Wire Act to the U.S. House of Represenatives, is seeking to become the Speaker of the House. If the U.S. representative from Utah were to become the ranking member of the House of Representatives, the chances of RAWA passing would increase by a significant margin.
Few Capitol Hill experts believe Rep. Chaffetz has the votes to become the Speaker. In today’s Republican Party, though, anything seems possible. Kevin McCarthy, the current House Majority Leader, was the favorite to win the position, but he announced last Thursday he would not run the position. His candidacy had been compromised by remarks he made about the Benghazi investigations. With McCarthy out of the way, Jason Chaffetz is one of a number of possible candidates no one thought had a chance a week ago.
John Boehner’s Resignation
The departing Speaker of the House, John Boenher, resigned on September 25 amidst a revolt in his own party. Speaker Boehner, a devout Catholic, had listened to the first-ever papal speech in the U.S. Congress the day before. Boehner was facing demands from the right-wing of the Republican House membership to use a possible September 30 government budget deadline to defund Planned Parenthood. After 5 years as Speaker of the House during a contentious time in American politics, he resigned from the post and his seat in Congress.
Boehner was seen on the left as an obstructionist, fighting the Obama Administration on a variety of issues, including a possible government shutdown over Obamacare. Throughout those years, Boehner was seen as an Establishment politician and came under fierce criticism from Tea Party politicians in his own party. Those politicians eventually brought down John Boehner.
Kevin McCarthy’s Rise and Fall
Kevin McCarthy was expected to become the next Speaker of the House, but had had a gaff during interviews in the week prior to the vote. McCarthy said in an interview that the investigation by the House Select Committee on Benghazi had hurt Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, bringing a storm of criticism from Democrats and Republicans. It gave fodder to Democrats and liberals who claim the Benghazi investigation is politically-motivation, instead of a fact-finding probe.
It was a poorly-timed mistake, costing McCarthy his best chance to become the Speaker of the House, a position once held by towering figures such as Henry Clay, Thomas Brackett “Czar” Reed, Sam Rayburn, Tip O’Neill, and Newt Gingrinch. Even then, his decision to step aside stunned Republicans. Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga tweeted, “The room was stunned as McCarthy announced he is ‘not the right one’ to lead the conference. At 8am he was at a forum making his pitch.”
Concerns about Paul Ryan
That leaves a void to fill and it is anybody’s guess at who fills it. Several publications give a sense of the confusion in their headlines. The Observer’s headline called it, “The Plum Job No Sane Politician Wants.”
The New York Times wrote, “The Latest Unease on [the] Right: Ryan Is Too Far Left”.
Breitbart published an article called, “Bill Flores Wants to Be Speaker of the House if Paul Ryan Doesn’t”.
As the headlines imply, Wisconsin Sen. Paul Ryan the next-in-line. He has the credentials, having run for vice president on the Mitt Romney 2012 ticket. Bill Flores and Jason Chaffetz each have said they would support his run, but he faces many of the same troubles that John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy faced: he’s seen as too moderate by the right-wing Republicans. That leaves a great deal of uncertainty at the moment.
Jason Chaffetz and Daniel Webster
Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) are the only two who have announced they are running at present. Rep. Webster is based by the House Freedom Caucus, but he has only a 64% rating on Breitbart’s measure of voting record. By contrast, Jason Chaffetz has an 82% rating.
Readers might think Breitbart’s grading is unscientific, but it is a gauge of where the rank-and-file Republican stands on issues. Millions of Republicans read Breitbart and Drudge Report each day. Of all the candidates, Jason Chaffetz has a more consistantly-conservative voting record. His record is more conservative than Daniel Webster, Bill Flores, and Paul Ryan.
That is where Rep. Chaffetz’s chance to win lies. The Establishment Republicans control the party apparatus, but the Tea Party is powerful enough to upend the caucus, if it doesn’t like a candidate. Many of the moderate Republicans will not make the promises it would take to become Speaker. As the Tea Partiers knock down candidate after candidate, a compromise choice will have to named. It’s possible Jason Chaffetz sits in the sweet spot between the two opposing views.
If so, the Speaker of the House would be in a position to champion Restore America’s Wire Act from the top spot in the United States House, perhaps the entire Congress itself. The Speaker wields tremendous power, because he is the one who names the chairman and he is the one who sets the agenda on the House Floor.
Jason Chaffetz’s Chances
Still, it is unlikely that Chaffetz becomes the Speaker of the House. He made an admission about his Planned Parenthood investigation which would not leave him in good standing with the right.
He is still relatively new to the House of Representatives. Many Republicans with more seniority and more standing are likely to want the position, however troublesome it might be. But Jason Chaffetz is a smart man and he threw his hat into the ring for some reason, whether it’s to gain standing through vying for the top position or because he sees an opportunity to fast track his rise through the ranks.
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