FRIDAY, DEC. 5: REPUBLICAN CHESS. House Speaker Shawn Jasper on Friday afternoon moved to head off an attempt by Bill O’Brien’s forces to name their own House Republican Majority Leader at a caucus they’re calling for next week (It had been scheduled for Monday morning but has now been moved to Tuesday.)
Jasper today named three-term Rep. Jack Flanagan, R-Brookline, as House Majority Leader, saying, that after working two terms with Flanagan, “I have been impressed with his ability to understand policy issues and to work effectively with his colleagues.
“I was also looking for someone who was a strong Republican, a leader, and someone whom I could trust,” said Jasper.
He then doubled down and named as his Deputy Speaker Rep. Gene Chandler, who lost to O’Brien in the House GOP caucus but then would have been O’Brien’s Speaker Pro Tem.
Jasper had been planning to hold off on naming leaders until next Wednesday, when he apparently still intends to name other leadership posts and committee chairs, but those plans changed when O’Brien issued a call for a meeting (now moved to Tuesday) of House Republicans to elect someone to represent the caucus on the NHGOP executive committee. Jasper can’t serve on that panel because he was not elected by a majority of the Republican caucus.
O’Brien is calling for that elected representative to also serve as House Majority Leader for the remainder of the term.
Regarding the meeting being planned by the O’Brien forces, Flanagan told the New Hampshire Journal’s Granite Reports on Friday afternoon: “I’m the only one who can call a caucus and I won’t be in town next week and won’t be able to attend. So that would not be an official Republican caucus.”
Rep. Steve Stepanek, a top O’Brien ally, countered by sending to the entire House GOP caucus a memo containing the names of 54 House GOP lawmakers issuing a “call” for a Republican caucus on Tuesday, “for the purpose of electing a new Republican Leader of the caucus and conduct whatever other business may come before it.”
The group has asked that NHGOP Chair Jennifer Horn preside, and a NHGOP source said Horn will indeed attend and “provide any assistance asked of her.”
“The issue of who will represent the House Republican Caucus on the (NHGOP) Executive Committee is still outstanding,” the source said. Bylaws disallow Jasper from serving because he was not elected by a majority of the Republican caucus.
“If a majority of the caucus attends this meeting and elects a representative who meets the qualifications laid out in our bylaws, that person will be seated at the next Executive Committee meeting,” the source said.
At the caucus, said Stepanek, nominations will get taken from the floor for the post of Republican Leader and a vote will be held. In order to be recognized as a member of the executive committee, the person elected will need to receive votes from the majority of the 239-member caucus, or 120 votes.
“Let’s remember very clearly that Speaker Jasper said that he is not in fact the Republican Leader of the Republican caucus and that he is the leader of the House, and he also said he is not going to be involved in the agenda of either the Republican caucus or the Democratic caucus,” said Stephanek.
“If in fact the Republican caucus is in charge of the Republican agenda, should the person directing that agenda be an appointee of someone who is not going to be involved in the Republican agenda?” Stephanek asked.
Even if the caucus on Tuesday elects a “Republican Leader,” can that leader supplant Flanagan as the Majority Leader as appointed by Jasper?
According to GOP sources we’ve spoken with, the thinking in the O’Brien camp is that when the House meets on Jan. 7, its first order of business will be to adopt rules. A proposed amendment to the rules could say that the “duly elected leader of the minority party shall be appointed by the Speaker as the Minority Leader and the duly elected leader of the majority party shall be appointed by the Speaker as the Majority Leader.”
It would be up to the full House to adopt the rule change, and if it does, presumably Jasper would have to comply with the will of the caucus – and replace Flanagan with the elected leader.
Or so the scenario goes.
(Watch for more Granite Reports this evening and tomorrow.)