The caucus leadership decided to go through with the straw poll today. I have good information about the process but I do not know the result of the “poll.” The polling and tallying was done by telephone, by an employee of the caucus. Two questions were asked. The first was, Should the caucus meet to talk about “speaker issues?” The process was described as “not a test vote,” and members were given assurances that there was no way to trace a vote. (Yeah, right.) Some members chose not to return calls. Some just said no. The second question was, Will you leave the caucus unified behind one person?
The leadership could have chosen to call a meeting of the caucus. All it takes to call a meeting is the signatures of ten members. If the requisite signatures are obtained, the chairman must call a meeting within seven days. The problem is, no one wanted to put their name on a list. My information is that Larry Taylor was just about ready to call the whole thing off, saying it was a bad idea, the whole thing is over, we need to move on, but Kelly Hancock objected. He wanted to keep the outside pressure on Straus (and all his colleagues) at least until December, maybe all the way to the first day of the session. Hancock is a Straus pledge and has not revoked his pledge, but undoubtedly will do so.
There are concerns that the caucus is not structured to conduct a vote for speaker. The by-laws envision votes on substantive issues, not leadership matters. The caucus may need a lawyer and a parliamentarian if the selection actually takes place at the meeting.
This was a horrible idea. It was done to benefit the outside groups, not the members, most of whom don’t want to be in the middle of a speakers race. Taylor knew what the right thing to do was but he failed to exercise leadership. There is no exit strategy. Nor is there any ambiguity about who the process favors–the side that doesn’t have the votes. The caucus leadership just caved in to Hancock and the pressure of the outside groups.
* * * *
I want to add one thing. Members whose terms have not expired but who were defeated cannot vote in the Republican caucus. Members whose votes have been canvassed, if that is the proper expression, are eligible for membership in the caucus.