After two days and six votes, as of Thursday morning, there is still no House Speaker in Washington.
But the Republicans in the Texas delegation to Washington have certainly played their part in the ongoing struggle over California Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s offer to take on that role.
Brandon Rottinghouse, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said the lack of consensus among Republicans in the House of Representatives is a sign of broader political polarization.
“I think you will eventually see a sort of narrowing down of the Congressional agenda,” he said. “But it is dangerous at the moment when you need to pass a budget or increase the debt ceiling. Ultimately, this may mean a decrease in speaker power. We saw it basically about 100 years ago and there are real implications in terms of leadership if you have a weak speaker.”
Rottinghouse said there were several camps among the Texas delegations to the House of Representatives. On one side is led by Rep. Chip Roy, who openly voted for a speaker other than McCarthy.
“If there is an opportunity to point a finger in the eyes of the establishment, you can bet that there will be a Republican from Texas who will help,” he said. “About 1/10th of the entire GOP conference is taking place in Texas. So they are able to define the fight. Specifically, you have three of them who worked against the alleged speaker, Kevin McCarthy, led by Chip Roy, who was instrumental in trying to find someone else because they simply don’t trust McCarthy to do the job.”
In addition to what Rottinghouse called a “rebel camp” led by Roy, he defined a “camp movement” led by Rep. Pete Sessions.
“Pete Sessions said we had a few rounds already. It doesn’t look like anything will change. So let’s find someone new,” Rottinghouse said. “And then you have embarrassment command camp people like Dan Crenshaw patiently waiting in line to try and hand over the Homeland Security gavel, specifically for him. He says, and he’s not alone, that it’s stupid and that’s what makes the party look bad and they want to move on and really get into management.”
Rottinghouse said part of what comes into play here is that while the Texas delegation is large, it lacks longevity in the House of Representatives.
“The delegation is weakened. The strength of Congress really lies in its longevity. And in Texas, this is not yet, ”he said. “Now they will get there, because obviously these numbers mean something, and the likelihood of longevity will continue. But this is something that can weaken their position.”
Despite the chaos on Capitol Hill, Rottinghouse said he doesn’t expect such controversy when the Texas House of Representatives chooses its speaker next week.
“Historically, there was a time in Texas history when you had such unity speakers (between parties),” he said. “Usually we see speakers being chosen from the moderate wing of their party, the polarization that is happening in Texas and happening across the country makes it very difficult for supporters to vote for someone from another party. So I don’t see it happening here, but it did. And you know, we can never say no.