Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney today told the Observer that the solution to the speakership crisis in the House of Representatives might be a bipartisan “coalition government” similar to the 9/11 Commission last decade—and perhaps even headed by the same people, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean and former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton.
The Democratic congresswoman made the remarks following an event she put together at Mount Sinai Hospital in East Harlem calling for the renewal of the Zadroga Act, which had provided federal funds to cover the health expenses of those involved in the response to the 9/11 attacks, right up until the measure expired at the end of September. One of the first responders involved in the event experienced difficulty breathing moments after the presser ended, and had to receive medical care—proof, Ms. Maloney argued, that the leadership crisis resulting from GOP Speaker John Boehner’s decision to resign at the end of this month requires a new and original solution.
“I think the craziness in the speaker’s race is having very detrimental effects on government as a whole. It’s holding up everything. You have to have a leader,” she said. “At first, when it started happening, I thought it was to be something handled by the Republicans. They have the majority, they must elect their speaker. But it evolves that they can’t agree, then you have to start thinking about a coalition government.”
Part of the deadlock over the election of a new speaker is the split between the 207 mainstream Republican members and the 40-member Tea Party-aligned Freedom Caucus.
Many expected Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California to succeed Mr. Boehner, but Mr. McCarthy announced last week that he lacked the 218 votes from his conference necessary to ascend to the perch—a seemingly insurmountable hurdle for any Republican currently vying for the position. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, currently chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, could almost certainly corral the required votes from within the GOP but he has so far refused to seek it.
Some in Congress believe that a moderate Republican will have to ask some Democrats to vote for them in order to obtain the position. Ms. Maloney pointed out that the Republican Mr. Kean became speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly in the 1970s despite being in the minority party thanks to Democratic backing—and noted that he showed ability to work across party lines as chairman of the 9/11 commission from 2002 to 2004, when he freely delegated power to Mr. Hamilton, its vice-chairman.
The Constitution does not require that the speaker of the House be a member of Congress, though every speaker to date has been.
“The time that government worked the best during the time that I’ve been alive, is the 9/11 Commission,” she said, arguing Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton successfully broke down barriers between American intelligence agencies while also encouraging conversation among Democrats and Republicans. “Maybe bring Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton back, and get them to do for the country what they did for 9/11.”
She suggested that Mr. Kean might hold the speakership and Mr. Hamilton possess another position, but effectively share the leadership duties. The congresswoman said she believed that Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also possessed the necessary qualities to head up a bipartisan coalition.