COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Republican House Caucus just cannot come to an agreement on who they want to be the next Speaker of the House, and that is now affecting bills that are languishing waiting for them to figure it out.
No bills can be voted on by the full House until a new Speaker is chosen.
That could have happened Wednesday, but Speaker Pro Tempore State Rep. Kirk Schuring canceled that chance, and another that could have happened Thursday.
Schuring is a stickler for tradition and he gets pretty upset when it is not followed.
That is what is happening right now in the kerfuffle over who will lead the House for the rest of the year.
It all stems from a bitter rivalry between State Rep. Ryan Smith and State Rep. Larry Householder.
Smith and Householder have been jockeying for position on who will be the Speaker of the House in the next General Assembly.
They both assume they are going to win their districts because they are what are called safe seats where the party that holds them is unlikely to lose them due to past voting results.
Going into the current General Assembly, Smith had been groomed to take over for Cliff Rosenberger next year.
But Larry Householder’s return to the legislature after a decade absence seems to have placed obstacles in his path.
Householder, a former Speaker of the House himself, has allegedly been using tactics that are similar if not the same as what were used when he was in power to regain it, according to Smith.
This bitter fight for power and control has now spilled over into the interim-Speaker’s race as Smith has decided to run while Householder has stayed on the sidelines and backed another lawmaker instead.
The talking point is that a lawmaker who is term limited, meaning they will not be returning to the Statehouse next year, and is unconnected to Rosenberger or the mess he may be caught up in, should be chosen to finish this year out.
That sounds really good, right? It also prevents Smith from getting an incumbent-like advantage next General Assembly when he could say he ushered the House through a difficult time.
On top of that, a term limited lawmaker would pose no threat to Householder and his bid next General Assembly, making it one less person to have to beat to regain the seat.
Smith says, that he should be chosen to fill out the year because he is not Cliff Rosenberger and is unconnected to whatever is going on with him and the FBI.
Rosenberger’s property was raided Wednesday and according to Smith, he is not the subject of any investigation nor has been approached by anyone about it.
Smith insists that he is on the level, but Democrats just don’t believe him.
According to Minority Leader of the House, State Rep. Fred Strahorn, members of his caucus just don’t want to take the risk Smith isn’t telling the truth.
Currently, the Democrats plan to put Strahorn’s name forward as a possible Speaker candidate.
He has no way of winning the seat unless Republicans cross the aisle and vote for him.
Nothing is outside the realm of possible but it seems highly unlikely that the republicans who are not supporting Smith, many of which are hard right leaning members of the party, would make that kind of move.
That leaves just the two Republican options, Smith and term limited State Rep. Andy Thompson.
Thompson says he was not approached by Householder to run, that it was his own decision to do so.
He says he cannot control who supports him and welcomes anyone to do so.
With 18-20 votes in his corner Thompson is the thorn in Smith’s side, and someone Smith says is a proxy for Householder.
Smith is certain he will get the votes he needs to become Speaker, but there is still doubt in Schuring’s mind.
He wants to verify the commitments lawmakers have made before he allows them to vote.
“I’m not going to roll the dice and have a three ring circus where we don’t know what the outcome will be,” said Schuring.
Some look at that and say that Schuring is just trying to ensure Smith is selected to be the next Speaker and putting that above the work that needs to get done for the people of Ohio.
Even Smith was furious that Wednesday’s vote was canceled.
“I want to take the vote,” said Smith. “Frankly, it’s time to take this vote, the people of Ohio deserve us to get on with our business. I believe I have the votes to be successful in this.”
He went on to say, “If the person who has the most to risk wants to take the vote, then why wouldn’t we take the vote?”
Thompson also weighed in on the votes cancellation and says that the FBI raid obviously played a part in Schuring’s decision.
“I think it’s kind of hard to be handling all those questions, there is a lot of stuff, a lot of answers we don’t know and I’m not suggesting I do have further answers on this but I think in that context it’s really hard to focus on an important decision like this,” said Thompson.
Meanwhile, Strahorn broke down what Ohioans are losing as a result of all the bickering in this brouhaha. A bill that requires concurrence before it can be sent to the Governor’s desk to be signed would create a distribution center in northeast Ohio that would bring 1,000 jobs to the area.
“When we can’t come back and do this work, that’s not an abstract thing. That’s real people, real jobs, real economic development that now can’t happen.”
The next opportunity to vote for a new Speaker of the House could come next week, according to the Clerk of the House Brad Young.
In the meantime more than 100 bills, some of them quite significant such as Payday Lending Reform, wait for the House to get back to business.