In recent years, observers of the United States Senate have blamed an influx of former members of the House of Representatives for bringing a new combativeness to what was once the world’s most deliberative body. Well, maybe the problem with the House today is that an incumbent senator is trying to play the role of a representative.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been consulting with a rump group of conservative House members this week over how to beat back House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to avoid a government shutdown, according to National Review Online. By Thursday afternoon, as House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy canvassed his troops, Cruz had won — and leaders shelved their plans.
It’s the latest in a series of blows to Boehner’s standing within his own conference. And if those conservatives want to follow Cruz, rather than Boehner, there’s nothing stopping them from electing a senator to lead the House.
That’s because there’s no requirement that a House speaker actually be a member of the body at large. Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution directs that the House “shall chuse [sic] their Speaker and other Officers.” No mention of a membership requirement.
Remember the first vote of the 113th Congress? Boehner won re-election as Speaker with 220 votes, barely more than the 217 required; some of the Republicans who defected cast ballots for Allen West, the Tea Party heartthrob who lost his re-election bid in 2012, and for David Walker, the former Comptroller General.