Moderate Dems, GOP Congressman Elect New Speaker
WASHINGTON (RayP)-- Determined to prevent a repeat of the October 2013 government shutdown debacle, members of both political parties broke with centuries of tradition and their own entrenched leaderships last night and unanimously named a centrist southern Democrat as the new Speaker of the House.
Francis Underwood (D-SC), a longtime representative but until recently a relatively minor operative in Washington political circles, quickly emerged as a consensus candidate to lead the House back up from its lowest approval ratings since such ratings began to be recorded.
The late-night leadership change took effect moments after virtually all House Democrats, and a nose-holding contingent of moderate Republicans, voted to end the shutdown, raise the debt limit and effectively end the leadership of previous House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who had been unable to obtain support for any other alternative in the final days before the threatened debt default.
Before Boehner could gavel the session to adjournment, Underwood took advantage of a little-known House rule which provides, "A resolution declaring vacant the office of Speaker is presented as a matter of high constitutional privilege." The rule prevented the incumbent Speaker from using any procedures or protocols to delay the vote beyond two days.
Faced with the inevitability of his defeat, Boehner immediately moved Underwood's request to the head of the agenda, where it resulted in a 320-0 vote to name him Speaker. All 200 House Democrats and 120 of the Republican members supported the change, with the remaining members abstaining.
Boehner immediately tendered the resignation of his House seat, and was later found dead in a Congressional gymnasium bathtub; the death was ruled a suicide after Capitol Police found half a dozen empty bottles of Jack Daniels and a pool of red and orange emanating from the tub which strongly suggested that Boehner had slit his own wrists. This tragic death followed the earlier suicide of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who locked herself into a Congressional garage with the engine of her SUV running.
Underwood was asked about his plans for dealing with the complex legislative agenda of the months before the next round of standoffs with the Senate and White House. "I wouldn't be overly concerned about what they think," he said in an apparent aside. "After all, only the President and Vice President stand in my way.... and I don't like it when people stand in my way."