Can the next Speaker be a Tip, Newt or Nancy?

The recent resignation of John Boehner as Speaker of the House has, of course, set off a leadership race that has been and will be most interesting to watch. On Thursday, the Republican caucus had planned to vote on the next Speaker — until House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration Biden urges Americans to join together in appeal for unity MORE (Calif.) abruptly dropped out. It now appears the vote will be on the House floor on Oct. 29, 2015, without a caucus vote. Stay tuned.


It does not appear that there is much, if any, interest in electing someone like Tip O'Neill (D-Mass.), Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (R-Ga.) or Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer placed on administrative leave: reports Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden taps career civil servants to acting posts at State, USAID, UN MORE (D-Calif.) to work with the president of the opposite party. Boehner was unable to lead — not for lack of desire, but rather because he was surrounded by a vocal minority which has no intention of compromising nor of legislating. Rep. Charlie Dent (R) of Pennsylvania has courageously spoken out, stating "they [the right] can't get to yes."

The issues with which the far right are concerned are not illegitimate in and of themselves, and need to be part of the solutions that we embrace. Rather, it is the methodology, and the clear belief of absolute correctness, that is problematic. Reducing the debt and focusing on national defense are legitimate priorities, but will also require compromise as there are other legitimate priorities — infrastructure, education and health research — to name a few.

It has been forgotten that presidents need strong leadership in Congress in order to enact meaningful legislation — which likely means "compromise legislation." The actions of O'Neill, Gingrich and Pelosi demonstrated an understanding of what it is to govern. Because the country is clearly divided, and presidential elections are regularly decided by a few percentage points, compromise is appropriate, since all of us are entitled to a voice in governing.

Issues like the debt ceiling, the Export-Import Bank, the highway bill and the next continuing resolution due on Dec. 11 present the opportunity for the new Speaker to follow earlier Speakers and govern — or be as disruptive as possible. Unfortunately, I think if they choose the first course, the likelihood for another revolt increases astronomically.

Business groups in the last several elections spent millions to secure a GOP majority in Congress. This is a classic case of "you may get what you wish for." Businesses do not want a government shutdown; rather, they recognize the need to raise the debt ceiling, pass a meaningful highway bill, reauthorize the Export-Import Bank and pass a long-term spending plan, because they understand that resolution of these issues is good for business. The Export-Import Bank issue presents a particularly ironic twist when you have companies like Boeing and GE saying that they will produce outside of the U.S. (in GE's case, in Canada) because of the lack of access to Export-Import Bank financing. Would it be fair to say Republicans are shipping jobs overseas?

Boehner received praise from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturing, both of whom recognize that they must depend upon a rational government operation rather than the histrionics created by the far right. As much as I would like to see a Tip, Newt or Nancy in the role of speaker, I doubt that we will be blessed with such rational behavior.

Owens represented New York's North Country from 2009 until retiring from the House in 2015. He is now a strategic adviser at Dentons out of its Washington office and a partner in the Plattsburgh, N.Y. firm of Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murnane, Kelleher & Trombley, PLLC.