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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mike Lee for Speaker?

Lee has an insurgent’s résumé: He was elected with the Tea Party wave in 2010, defeating an incumbent Republican, Bob Bennett, along the way. He was Ted Cruz’s partner in crime during the government shutdown debates. His scorecard with Heritage Action, often the scourge of G.O.P. leaders, currently stands at 100 percent. And unlike almost every member of the House and Senate leadership, he’s a genuine foe of comprehensive immigration reform.

At the same time, like Ryan (and unlike Cruz), Lee been a real policy entrepreneur. He authored a pro-family tax plan that breaks with some (if perhaps not enough) of the G.O.P. donor class’s orthodoxies. He has offered serious proposals on transportation, higher education and religious liberty. And just this week he was part of a bipartisan breakthrough on criminal justice reform, one of the rare issues where the late Obama years still offer hope for compromise.

In Lee’s ambitions, you can see what the House insurgents want to be — a force that moves conservative policy making away from donor service and toward genuine reform — rather than the purely nihilistic force they often threaten to become. You can see the outlines of the kind of agenda that might satisfy (some) intransigents and also provide some (very) modest ground for bipartisanship.

And then in his record and persona, you can see a — let’s be frank — tribal identification with insurgency that might make easier for him to persuade the G.O.P.’s right flank to accept the real limits on the House’s power.

Unfortunately the House insurgents do not appear to have a Mike Lee in their ranks.

But there is also no rule preventing the House from electing a senator as its speaker.
Ross Douthat is an elegant, perceptive writer, and I usually agree with him.  But this idea is badly flawed.

First, as a previous post mentioned, it is not entirely clear that the Constitution permits the House to elect a speaker from outside its ranks. Granted, however, it is unlikely that the judiciary would intervene to stop such a move.)

Second, and much more important, it violates a fundamental principle of the Constitution: bicameralism.  In Federalist 51, Madison laid out the rationale for having two different legislative bodies:
In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit.
Different terms of office, different constituencies, different prerogatives and functions -- all of these distinctions separate the two chambers, just as the Framers intended.  Members of one should not get into the internal affairs of the other -- unless of course they leave the first and win election to the second.