Speaker Boehner and his Leadership team have mishandled negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.” Setting aside their tactical moves, their overall strategy going into the talks was misguided. They assumed that Obama wanted to reach a deal and that getting there was just fine-tuning some algorithm of spending cuts and tax hikes. They began mired in legislative minutiae and failed to outline a broader vision about the economy and the proper role of government the public could understand. All that we know. The question now is how we go forward.
Next week, on January 3rd, the House will meet to convene the 113th Congress. The first order of business will be to elect a new Speaker. Prior to that business, a motion will be made to conduct the election of the Speaker by secret ballot. Conducting the vote by secret ballot would allow each member to vote with a clear conscience, free of threats of punishment or retribution.
This morning, outgoing Congressman Allen West was a guest of Breitbart New’s Larry O’Conner on WMAL in Washington. (Interview clip is below.) Asked about the idea of a secret ballot, Rep. West said:
Well I’ve read and heard about offering up, possibly having, a secret ballot when they do the roll-call vote, instead of it being open, because a lot of people worry about retribution. I believe that a secret ballot is part of who we are. Look, we were the people who stood up against card check. And so if we are going to be honest, as far as our principles and beholding those things, then I don’t see anything wrong with having a secret ballot come January the 3rd next year when they do have that vote for the Speakership.”
It is entirely possible that Speaker Boehner could win the 217 votes he needs to be elected Speaker by secret ballot. Were that to happen, he can confidently go forward knowing he has the full faith of his conference. It would put the “fiscal cliff” debacle behind him. He would emerge a much stronger leader.
If he were not to secure the votes and the election was pushed to additional ballots, it would be a clear indication that some portion of the conference has lost confidence in his leadership. He could then adapt his style of leadership and win full support on a subsequent ballot or an alternative could emerge, absorbing the mistakes of the past two years.
Either outcome would strengthen the caucus and the hands of Republicans and conservatives in negotiating with Obama. Otherwise, the conference will likely limp into the mid-term elections.