We’ve heard it from journalists across the board - John Boehner’s speakership is in jeopardy. He’s somehow worked himself into a corner, presumably in a soaked fetal position, as all of the scenarios to end the government shutdown have him personally damned. To keep his job, Boehner has to endure each painful cog of the world’s worst Rube Goldberg machine - It will shoot him in the foot, stab him in the back, douse him in booze, and all for the payoff of being universally hated. He can either concede to the White House and pass a clean resolution free of any Obamacare infractions, which would result in him having a very ticked off Tea Party caucus (we’re talking “show me your birth certificate” level of ticked). Or, he can press on with his gin-soaked stiff upper lip with no clean resolution and watch his party’s approval ratings sink.
But this isn’t the first time that Boehner has had to have the contact information for his local unemployment office when it comes to his speakership, so let’s look beyond that. What I find incredibly curious is the process of picking a House Speaker and the oversight in the constitution that could potentially allow anybody to fill that seat, regardless of if they are a politician.
The standard process for selecting a new Speaker of the House is fairly nebulous, but basically it boils down to a nominee having to win a majority of the total number of votes cast in the house. Note that it is votes cast in the house, not the majority of house members. For example: There are 435 representatives in the house. Let’s say 5 of them voted absent, now a nominee must win the majority of 430 representatives. You’re probably saying “of course dummy, that’s simple math,” - but it gets complicated. Imagine that nominee A gets 200 votes, nominee B gets 190 votes, and a darkhorse write-in gets 40 votes. Despite receiving the highest tally of votes amongst the 3, nominee A would not become speaker considering that his/her 200 is not the grand majority of all of the votes added up. Better hope Boehner left behind the keys to the liquor cabinet, cause the voting will need to continue.
Before any of the voting happens though, it has to be decided on who to vote for. And thanks to a very loose wording in the constitution, it is believed that absolutely anyone can become Speaker of the House. Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5 states that “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker…” which is believed to open the door to anything with opposable thumbs. Think of it like the mock presidential elections your teacher would make your class do in middle school. Remember how they would make you choose between whoever the 2 candidates were but there would be a handful of miniature stand-up comics who would write in Mickey Mouse or Terrell Owens? Now imagine Terrell Owens actually winning the majority of votes over the 2 politicians. Granted, this has never happened in the history of the House, but it certainly is thrilling knowing that there is the smallest of chances that we could end up with Charles Barkley as House Speaker.
So if John Boehner ends up being forced out to greener pastures (assuming greener pastures is the name of the lobbying group he ends up at), don’t look at the election of a new House Speaker as a civics lesson bore, but rather a world full of wonderment and possibilities. Like Disney World, but with more old drunks.