Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio tells Breitbart News that he would oppose efforts by Rep. Devin Nunes (R.-CA) to weaken or delete the Motion to Vacate the Chair in the House Rules.
“I strongly oppose any efforts to make changes to, or do away with, the Motion to Vacate the Chair,” Jordan says. He was the first leader of the House Freedom Caucus and the last chairman of the Republican Study Committee, before it become part of the GOP leadership team.
Former Speaker John Boehner resigned from Congress and on Oct. 29, 2015 was replaced by Speaker Paul Ryan. Boehner had been put on notice that his time was up by a motion to vacate the chair filed in July 2015 by Rep. Mark Meadows (R.-NC), but Meadows did not take the floor to force the vote. The North Carolina congressman, along with other conservatives, declined to press their case, when Congress returned from summer recess, after Boehner announced that he would step down.
The change to the rule, proposed by Nunes, would add another step to the process of removing a speaker.
As the rule now reads, the motion is a privileged motion. Thus if a congressman is recognized on the House floor he has the “privilege” to call for an immediate vote on continued tenure of the Speaker of the House. The motion cannot be amended, nor can there be debate. If a majority of the House supports the motion, the speaker is removed and a Speaker Pro Tempore is chosen.
House rules are based on Jefferson’s Manual, a system of parliamentary procedures that were formally incorporated as the chamber’s official rules and procedures in 1837, 11 years after Thomas Jefferson‘s death.
Nunes, who is the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wants the rule changed, so that before a member can take the floor to make his privileged motion, he must first have the approval of his own party’s caucus.
Although in theory the speaker is elected from the whole House, in practice the candidates for speaker are first nominated by their own party’s caucus and then presented to the whole House. The vote is pro forma because the majority party has always supported the winner of its caucus nomination.
The effect of the Nunes proposal would be eliminate the possibility of factions from each party combining to remove a speaker, since the floor vote is predicated on the party-only vote.
Jack Langer, the communications director for Nunes, told Breitbart News the California congressman is looking to make the running of the chamber more smooth, when he formally files his amendment to House rules after this session.
“He’s planning on submitting it for consideration as part of the rules package for the next Congress,” Langer said.
“The goal is to prevent the House’s functioning from being severely disrupted at any given moment due to a whim or grievance by a single Member,” he said. “If the party is so dissatisfied with the Speaker that it wants to replace him, the motion would still allow for that – but it’s reasonable to require majority support within the party for that kind of drastic action.”
Perhaps mindful of his own path to the speaker’s gavel, Ryan attempted to make the elimination of the motion a condition of his agreeing to stand for speaker.
At the time, one week before his ascension, his spokesman Brendan Buck told reporters the privilege to call for a vote that would remove a speaker was like a weapon pointed at the speaker and that such a weapon would make it impossible for any speaker to succeed.
Eventually, Ryan relented and ran for speaker without changes to the House rules, but now one year later, his ally Nunes is taking up the cause.
Of course, Nunes is not just a Ryan ally, but also a sworn enemy of House conservatives, whom he once described as “lemmings with suicide vests.”
Jordan said he revered how the House still follows parliamentary rules penned by author of the Declaration of Independence.
“This centuries-old procedural motion is a critical accountability tool for the rank-and-file members of the House,” the congressman said.
“If it was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it’s good enough for the 115th Congress.”