Thursday, November 22, 2012

Speaker Carter and Looking for Loopholes

Cabot's Davy Carter upset Terry Rice of Waldron to win the Speaker of the House position.   He won with the overwhelming support of Democrats and only six or seven votes (out of 51) from his own party.    Some Republicans view this as vile treachery and theorize that it means Gov. Mike Beebe will still be pulling the strings.

Other observers, like me, take a much more nuanced approach.    The Democrats jumped at this deal not because Beebe and Carter have some secret deal, but merely because Carter was a somewhat better choice for them.   The perception was that Rice would engage in payback for all the pettiness they subjected the Republicans to when they were in the majority. Payback is not always unjust, but it is always a female dog.  They could also comfort themselves with the perception that they are still relevant because they showed they at least had a say in picking the Speaker.

Some of my Republican friends are convinced I am wrong about this, and keep trying to game the system to think of every way Carter could help Gov. Beebe get his wicked way without making it obvious that some deal was made.   I have previously reported that one way would be to send Obamacare related bills (in particular any bills to expand Medicaid) to Democrat-Controlled Committees like Public Health or Insurance.   Sending them to State Agencies, where Republicans hold sway, would indicate that Carter did not have a secret deal with the Democrats.

The idea is that with the split in the full house so narrow, and with Beebe so able and willing to use public money to buy off a Republican legislator here and there, and with so many Republican legislators who are amenable to being bought off (or even legitimately leaning left), the best chance to stop many parts of Obamacare would be to stop it in committee, just as the Democrats blatantly did to bills in the past.   In the past, many "good 'old boy" Democrats could hide their crazy from the folks back home because their leadership would send Republican sponsored bills that even conservative Democrats back home would favor to a committee that would bury them.

Well, one of my good friends who is just adamant that Carter is a tool for Beebe suggested to me a second way Carter could accomplish this diabolical result.   That is, he could tilt the process while not appearing (except to the most informed) to tilt the process.   He could do this by changing the rules under which the House operates (the Speaker controls the Rules Committee).   Right now, a bill that fails to make it out of committee needs a SUPER-majority of the full house to bring it out for a vote.   That is what empowers the committee system.   If the rules were changed so that a simple majority could over-ride the decisions of committees it would be a game-changer, and not in a good way.

While the committee process has been frustrating to Republicans when they were in the minority, it serves as a very effective check on limiting the number of laws that powerful special interests want.   Under the current set-up, they need to sell a bill to the committee (who ought to have more expertise in their area to spot a bad idea posing as a good one) and then they need to sell it to the whole body.   If the rules were changed so that a simple majority could pull bills out of committee then every powerful special interest could side-step the legislators who are the most informed.  We would get even more laws that had even less detailed scrutiny.

This is especially true with the house so closely divided.   I think if this happened the Speaker would be deluged with requests to take bills that were stuck in committee and bring them out to the floor.    He does not need more headaches and more work, so I think the odds are slim that he will do this.  If he does, it gives major credibility to my Republican friends who are incensed with Carter and convinced there was a major secret deal with Beebe.


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