The AJC's Aaron Gould Sheinin has a great story today recapping all the shenanigans, folderol and scandal that's led up tothis morning's meeting of House Republicans, but I'll try to add a few tidbits.
As close observers are already aware, what was earlier billed as a meeting to determine the next Speaker has been downgraded to a gathering designed to "hash out some issues," as one House member told me but not for a formal vote to determine who the leadership will be.
In fact, one of the issues to be debated today is whether there'll be a vote at all before the start of the 2010 Legislative Session on Jan. 11.
Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, argues that there shouldn't be such a closed-door vote, as quoted in his hometown paper, The Beacon:
"Given this unique situation I am asking all candidates for Speaker and Speaker Pro-Tem to bypass caucus politics and offer themselves before the entire membership of the Georgia House of Representatives, said Martin, "this is a time for all Georgians to see the entire process and for all members to be included."
I spoke to another GOP insider who was even more blunt: "Let people be nominated from the floor of the damn House and let the chips fall where they may. That's the best way to disinfect this situation."
The situation he talking about, of course, is the spreading stain on the House leadership stemming from Speaker Glenn Richardson's lobbyist-hopping antics. The few who don't have much-rumored peccadilloes of their own (see Peach Pundit for a rundown of the latest gossip) are tainted because of their failure to address the Speaker's conflict-of-interest problems.
That failure, combined with the initial efforts at a top-down restructuring inside the walls of the Governor's Mansion, have left many rank-and-file Republicans deeply frustrated with their current leadership. What I'm hearing is that any further attempt by the usual power-brokers to decree a leadership slate will meet with vigorous resistance.
Even the leadership seems to have gotten the message and have, I'm told, shifted their tactics in a desperate effort to ride out the coming whirlwind. One insider tells me that phone lines have been blazing in recent days as Majority Leader Jerry Keen and Rules Chairman Earl Ehrhart both with strong ties to Richardson that don't weigh in their favor now have been frantically trying to cut deals that will allow them to hang on to their influential positions. Both are apparently backing Ways and Means Chairman Larry O'Neal for Speaker in hopes that he'll reward them with stays of execution.
Another rumor I've heard is that Speaker Pro-Tem Mark Burkhalter, who first said he wanted the Speaker's job then backed off, was undercut in his ambitions by prominent GOP House members who fed reporters with unflattering tips about the Johns Creek pol.
I'll be curious as to how far the House will go in cleaning house.
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