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Friday, January 4, 2013

That Inanimate Carbon Rod Looks Better All the Time

In a classic episode of "The Simpsons" (are there any other kind?), Homer takes umbrage when passed over for employee-of-the-month at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.  Adding insult to injury, Homer loses the title to an inanimate carbon rod.  So, really, John Boehner (R-Lachrymosia) shouldn't feel too bad.

Boehner was re-elected Speaker of the House by a relatively narrow margin, receiving 220 votes to Nancy Pelosi's (D-SodomandGomorrah) 192.  Interestingly, a number of votes went neither to Boehner nor to the Democratic leader Pelosi.  Votes were cast for other, more conservative Republicans, such as Eric Cantor (R-Rasputinia)and Raul Labrador (R-Who'sagoodboy?), as well as--on the Democratic side--civil rights icon John Lewis (D-I'dratherbemarchingonWashington). Additionally, some congressmen voted for such non-members as Colin Powell and Allen West, the latter having just lost his re-election battle in Florida.  This raises the obvious question: Can ANYBODY be elected Speaker of the House?

Well, actually, the answer may be "Yes": Absolutely anybody--or any THING--may qualify to serve as Speaaker of the House.  The Constitution simply states that the "House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers."  (Spelling and capitalization apparently don't count.)  Most commentators assume, in keeping with the rules for the Senate, as well as for the British Parliament on which much of our governmental structure was based, that the House is meant to choose from among its own members.  As we see, though, this was not clearly stated.

(DIGRESSION: What was it with the Founding Fathers and ambiguous phrasing?  Speaker elections, gun ownership. . . .Couldn't these guys ever just come right out and SAY stuff?  EOD)

And here I thought the papacy had lax standards!  To be elected Pope, though, one does have to be Catholic--and a man.  Even Supreme Court Justices have to be nominated by the President, which is why we've never had unqualified people in that august body!  (Now, now.  If Clarence Thomas ever opens his mouth, I'm sure we'll be amazed by the scintillating display of jurisprudential reasoning.)

An interesting sidebar: In the British Parliament, the newly-elected Speaker is actually dragged by the other members to the Speaker's chair.  Far from being the unambiguous (?) honor that it is today, the speakership actually involved a certain amount of risk: If a monarch didn't like what the speaker spake, a swift and often lethal demotion could follow.  While I hesitate to endorse such a medieval tradition today, I think we might all enjoy watching a nice Boehner-drag--possibly through a bramble patch.

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