Elect a Speaker of the House not speaker of a party

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By Jim Rohrer

Admittedly, my last recommendation to improve the working of our dysfunctional U.S. House of Representatives will be challenging. It will take a groundswell of voter support to amend the Constitution to provide longer terms and a one-term limitation for House members.
A recent McLaughlin & Associates survey shows that 82 percent of voters support a Constitutional amendment to impose term limits. We must speak out for a specific initiative for this to gain some momentum.
Are you bewildered and disappointed that both Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan have only listened to their party’s members, making zero efforts to act in a bipartisian manner? Since the mid ‘90s, Republican Speakers have supported an informal House rule called the Hastert Rule.
This rule says that only items supported by the majority party will even be considered for a vote. Interestingly, the rule carries the name of a former Speaker who was disgraced and sent to prison for financial transactions to cover his own sexual abuse.
This is the way the game is played, and former Speaker John Boehner lost his Speakership and was forced to an early retirement by a small number of right-wing extremists called the freedom caucus. They objected to his bipartisian efforts. The Speaker of the House has become Speaker of only part of the House, those in the party of the Speaker.
Remember the words of President Lincoln: “A House divided can not stand.” He was talking about the country, but the divides of the House of Representatives are destroying their work. A divided House doesn’t work for Americans.  
A bipartisian approach for immigration exists within the House, but it will never be submitted for a vote because of the freedom caucus and the Hastert Rule. Recently, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “Let’s take a shot at doing this together because it ain’t working doing it by ourselves.”
Sen. Graham is one of 80 legislators who are part of something called “No Labels.” These legislators have pledged to put voters’ interests ahead of party considerations. The group’s “break the gridlock” is an initiative to solve problems by working together. For the record, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and Sen. Cory Gardner are also members of No Labels. No Labels has announced four key goals:
• Create 25 million jobs over 10 years
• Secure Medicare and Social Security for the next 70 years
• Balance the federal budget by 2030
• Make America energy secure by 2024
These goals certainly seem worthy of bipartisian support. So, my second recommendation is to elect a Speaker of the House who will represent the entire body, not just the party with a majority.
This can be done by a simple change of the House rules requiring 60 percent of House members to elect a Speaker instead of the current 50 percent.
A candidate for Speaker would then require support from both parties. To retain the Speakership, the Speaker would need ongoing support from both parties and would certainly mean dumping the Hastert Rule. Imagine, a House of Representatives that would represent us, not a party.
Timing is everything, and No Labels is pushing this idea as a new Speaker will be elected after the November elections. All experts tell us that whoever controls the House after the midterm elections will do so by a very small majority. In other words, the House will be virtually balanced in terms of the two parties.
So, now would be the time for this change to occur. I believe either party could gain support by embracing this idea, but don’t hold your breath for this to happen. Bipartisanship seems not to be the first thought in Washington.
Let’s tell our representatives that we are sick of the lack of civility and unbridled partisanship, and that our standards for the next Speaker include working together with all members who the voters have elected to serve us.

Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the bi-books “Improve Your Bottom Line … Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job … Become a More Valuable Player.” Jim’s belief is that common sense is becoming less common. (More about Jim at www.theloyaltypartners.com.)