Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi uttered powerful words upon becoming speaker of the House: "I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship, and look forward to working with you on behalf of the American people." What happened to that pledge?
During her tenure, Mrs. Pelosi has only served to transform herself into arguably the most partisan speaker ever to hold the office by pushing her top agenda items to passage with no Republican votes. So much for "not partisan."
Yet the same prowess that skillfully counted votes and reformed the country's health care system also divided the country and gave rise to systemic dysfunction in the House. Mrs. Pelosi has also managed to put her own job in jeopardy, and she is now being attacked by Democrats who have previously voted to elect her speaker. Rep. candidate Roy Herron of Tennessee and Rep. Bobby Bright of Alabama have made headlines by announcing that they will not support Mrs. Pelosi for another term as speaker. Rep. Gene Taylor, an 11-term Mississippi congressman, has stated that his ideal candidate for speaker would be Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton as he is more in tune with what he believes.
It turns out that uncertainty about who should be the next speaker is one of the few things the two parties have in common these days as a growing number of Republicans have also quietly refused to ally themselves with current party leadership. Top-tier candidates Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Bill Flores of Texas will not commit to supporting Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio if elected and should Republicans retake the House on Nov. 2. Some would prefer that libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul of Texas or Tea Party advocate Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota receive the position.
The question remains: Would any party-affiliated individual do a better job of unifying the members in the House and by extension, America?
Congress will remain infected with partisan plague unless there is a correction in the way that they conduct their first order of business with the selection of the House speaker. The Constitution states that "the House of Representatives shall choose its speaker." Never did it specify that the speaker be a sitting member of Congress.
Perhaps now is the time for the House to start looking outside of the swamp of Congress for its next leader and select a pragmatic figure that is not beholden to a party. Regardless of the midterm election's outcome, it is time for more civil discourse when it comes to selecting who will be the next speaker. In this country, our representatives might serve different parties but the speaker should truly serve the people.
JANETTE LITTLER AND BOB SCHUMAN
San Diego, Calif.
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