After two days and six votes called, there is still no Speaker of the House in Washington as of Thursday morning.
But Republicans in the Texas delegation in Washington have certainly been playing a role in the continued fight over Calif. Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy’s bid to take on the role.
Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said the lack of consensus among House Republicans is a sign of wider-spread political polarization.
“I think, ultimately, you’re going to see a kind of narrowing of the congressional agenda,” he said. “But it’s dangerous in a moment where you need to pass a budget or increase a debt ceiling. Ultimately, it may mean that there’s a reduction in the power of the speaker. We’ve seen this basically about 100 years ago, and there’s real ramifications in terms of leadership if you have a speaker who’s weak.”
Rottinghaus said there are several camps among the Texas delegation in the House. Leading one side is Rep. Chip Roy who has been outspoken in voting for a speaker other than McCarthy.
“If there’s an opportunity to stick a finger in the eye of the establishment, you can bet there will be a Texas Republican there to help,” he said. “Texas has about 1/10 of the whole GOP House conference. So they’re in a position to be able to determine the fight. You’ve got three of them in particular who have worked against a presumptive speaker, Kevin McCarthy, led by Chip Roy, who’s played a major role in trying to find somebody different because they simply don’t trust McCarthy to do the job.”
In addition to what Rottinghaus called the “rebel camp” led by Roy, he identified a “move on camp” led by Rep. Pete Sessions.
“Pete Sessions has said we’ve already had several rounds. It doesn’t look like things are going to change. So let’s find somebody new,” Rottinghaus said. “And then you’ve got the kind of ‘team embarrassment camp’ people like Dan Crenshaw, who’ve been waiting patiently in line to try to get the gavel to Homeland Security, in particular, for him. He says, and he’s not alone, that this is silly and that this is something that makes the party look bad and they want to move on and actually get to the business of governing.”
Rottinghaus said part of what’s at play here is that, although the Texas delegation is large, it lacks members with longevity in the House.
“The delegation has been weakened. Strength in Congress is really about longevity. And Texas doesn’t have that yet,” he said. “Now, they will get there because obviously these numbers mean something and the likelihood of longevity is going to last. But this is something that may weaken their position.”
Despite the chaos on Capitol Hill, Rottinghaus said he does not anticipate similar disagreements unfolding when the Texas State House of Representatives moves to pick its own speaker next week.
“There has historically been a time in Texas history where you’ve had these kind of unity speakers (across parties),” he said. “We generally see speakers being chosen from the moderate wing of their party, the polarization that happens in Texas and that’s been happening across the country makes it really challenging for partisans to vote for somebody of the other party. So I don’t see it happening here, but it has happened. And you know, we can’t ever say ‘no.’”