Monday November 19, 2018
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- It says in the Constitution - which appears to be something less a rule book than a suggestion box among about 40 percent of the U.S. population - in the 20th Amendment that:
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3rd day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
- Prior to the adoption of that Amendment, the Congress didn't meet until "the first Monday in December" of the year following the election - 13 months. The 20th Amendment also moved the inauguration of the President up from March 4, to its current January 20.
- In 2019, January 3 occurs on a Thursday, so there is a high probability that the 116th Congress will open on the Constitutionally suggested date.
- On the first day of whatever date Congress opens, the House of Representatives will vote for Speaker.
- Again, leaning on my deep knowledge of the Constitution as imparted in the late Dr. Robert Hill's Con Law class at Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 45750: Article I, section 2 states:
The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.
- I love that clause. It treats two of the most important activities granted to the House like a throwaway line in a Mel Brooks movie:
- From "Young Frankenstein" via IMDB.com:
[Froederick and Igor are exhuming a dead criminal]
Dr. Frankenstein: What a filthy job.
Igor: Could be worse.
Dr. Frankenstein: How?
Igor: Could be raining.
[it starts to pour]
- See what I mean?
- Let's leave the "power of impeachment" business at least until the 60-or-so incoming freshman Democrats have located the bathrooms in the House Office Buildings and concentrate, instead, on the "The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker" part.
- It is noted, every two years (by people like me who pretend to have knowledge that you do not) that there is nothing in those eight words that requires the Speaker to actually be a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Nevertheless each of the 53 different men and one woman who have served in that post have been Members during their service.
- The way it works, in general is this:
Each of the major parties (at this writing still Rs and Ds) meets to nominate its candidate for Speaker.
On the day the Congress opens, and shortly after taking the oath of office, the entire Congress votes - by individually saying a name aloud - for Speaker. This is not required by the Constitution, but is the custom.
A Member can vote for their party's candidate, anyone else they want, can decline to vote, or can vote "Present."
- Further (from the Clerk of the House's webpage):
To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes cast-which may be less than a majority of the full House [218 votes] because of vacancies, absentee Members, or Members who vote "present."
If no candidate receives the majority of votes, the roll call is repeated until a majority is reached and the Speaker is elected.
- In 1856, Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts was elected on the 133rd ballot which election lasted from December 3, 1855 to February 2, 1856.
- As Democrats appear to have won at least 232 seats (a gain of 39) with three seats still undecided, they will organize the House. In addition to getting to name the chair of every committee and subcommittee, and decide the floor schedule, and have sway over the manner in which a bill will be considered if it is cleared for floor action (how many, if any, amendments can be offered, how much time will be allowed for debate, etc.); they will also "choose a Speaker."
- Republicans will nominate Kevin McCarthy of California (who will be Minority Leader), but the real action will be on the Democrats' side of the House.
- A significant number of Freshman Democrats ran on a platform of equal distaste for Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi. They will never vote for Trump and they pledged not to vote for Pelosi for Speaker.
- As I write this on Sunday, November 18, there is no serious opposition to Pelosi, but there is time for someone to mount an effort. The reason this is important is: Anti-Pelosi Democrats have to vote for someone else. If they vote "present" then it is as if they have not voted at all and lower the bar for Pelosi's election.
- January 3 will be the next "Big Date" on the calendar here in Our Nation's Capital.
NOTE: I have received a number of emails from people who, in spite of my begging and pleading, did not get around to subscribing to Mullings for the next year. To remedy that, I will keep the instructions to subscribe on the Secret Decoder Ring page for a couple of weeks.
- On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the 20th Amendment and to Wikipedia's Speakers of the House page. Also, as promised How to Subscribe.
The Mullfoto is from the parking garage at the Metropark Station in New Jersey.
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