Chuck Muth: Assembly Republicans tempt mutually assured destruction
That’s how I ended my column last week about Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick’s expected move from the tiny “Bad Boy” office he was assigned by the Democrats in the 2013 Legislature to the biggest and best office in the Assembly after his conservative GOP colleagues elected him as their Speaker-designate.
The official election for a new Assembly Speaker will take place on opening day of the 2015 legislative session when all members of both parties will vote. By tradition, the chosen caucus leader of the majority party is automatically elected Speaker by acclamation. But that might not happen this time.
A gaggle of moderate Gumby Republicans are unhappy with being ousted from power within the Republican Assembly caucus. As such, there has been much speculation a half-dozen of those moderates might form an unholy alliance with the 17 Democrats to deny Hambrick the Speakership.
Such a move has been called the “nuclear option,” because if some Republicans do join with the Democrats to unseat Hambrick and put Democrats back in control after Republicans have suffered in the minority for some 30 long years, all hell is going to break loose.
Yet at the time I write this, just such a meeting to drop this political bomb has reportedly been scheduled for Monday.
According to reporter Sean Whaley, Hambrick has tried to head off efforts to deny him the Speakership by removing conservative Assemblywoman Michele Fiore as chairman of the Assembly Taxation Committee, where Gov. Brian Sandoval’s expected massive tax hike will be heard next year.
The decision to dump Fiore purportedly is over media reports about IRS tax liens issued against her that are related to a business she owned. But if this was all about Fiore’s tax liens, then why was freshman conservative Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman, who has no such tax issues, also removed from the Taxation Committee?
No, this is clearly an effort to remove any and all potential conservative opposition to the Governor’s tax hike plans. Indeed, not 24 hours after being elected Speaker-designate a week ago, Hambrick went “wobbly” and reversed himself in an interview by declaring he would break his Taxpayer Protection Pledge and vote for the Sandoval tax hike.
In the immortal words of Jay Sherman, The Critic, “It stinks!”
This situation is fluid. It has been changing by the hour, let alone the day. So before this column even makes it into print there’s a good chance one or more twists and turns will have taken place. But know this…
Conservative Republicans have a nuclear option of their own. It’s called a “recall.” And such recalls of members of the “Collaborator Caucus” may commence 10 days after the start of the 2015 legislative session. Buckle up, folks.
Chuk Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization.