As influential as AOC and her cronies have become over the last six months, Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows her position is secure.
Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) explains a little-known change Nancy Pelosi made to the standard rules package that will govern the House for the duration of the 116th Congress. The standard rules package passed the House easily this year, with most Democrats voting for it.
Chaffetz writes that this year’s rules package was anything but standard.
It seems Pelosi has learned a thing or two from watching the downfall of former Republican House Speaker John Boehner who resigned the speakership in 2015 “under pressure from his right flank.”
No one will be surprised to hear that Pelosi has taken measures to protect herself from the same fate.
Among the surprising changes in the small print was a little-noticed provision changing the threshold for the Motion to Vacate the chair. It was a lot of “insider baseball” that few voters – and probably not many members of Congress could fully appreciate.
The Motion to Vacate is the process used to replace a speaker of the house in mid-session. It works like this: the majority party introduces the motion to vacate, which declares the office of speaker vacant and forces a new vote. This is a privileged motion, meaning anyone can offer it. If a majority of the whole body supports the motion, it passes. That means a minority of the majority plus the minority party can combine to oust a speaker. Though the process was not used on Speaker Boehner, the mere threat of North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows introducing such a motion was enough for Boehner to step down.
Pelosi has no such fears. Under her rules package, the Motion to Vacate now requires a majority of the majority before it can be voted on by the full House. That is a much higher threshold and nearly impossible to achieve. What was once a tool of the minority (not the House minority, but the minority of the majority) has been eliminated.
This unobtrusive change allows Pelosi to continue calling the shots for the next eighteen months without fear of being involuntarily removed from the speakership. While Pelosi does not currently support impeachment, she may change her mind. However, her “sleight of hand” means she will never be forced to act by the more radical arm of her caucus.
Pelosi’s elimination of the check on power may ironically turn out to be good for Republicans, who rode anti-Pelosi sentiment to a crushing victory in 2010. It may also be good for the president’s 2020 prospects as it leaves little flexibility for Democrats if they once again see Pelosi driving their party over an electoral cliff.
And you can always count on Pelosi to overreach.
Chaffetz says that Pelosi served as Speaker during his first term in the House, “Pelosi overreached to such a degree that she helped spawn the Tea Party movement. Her policy prescriptions were so bad and her marketing of them so deceptive that the resulting electoral backlash cost Democrats the House and Pelosi the speakership.”
I’ll drink to that.