This is wild. The new narrow Republican majority in the state House of Representatives is in an internal mess already.
For one thing, these Republicans went into caucuses Friday and somehow messed around and came out the minority by 11-to-13 in the defining Joint Budget Committee, which spends money and thus controls all. The next speaker gets four ex-officio appointments, and thus can fix the deficit, which brings us to the real excitement, at least for insiders:
The upshot: I’m pretty sure state Rep. Davy Carter of Cabot, a lawyer and banker and third-term Republican so respected by Democrats that he got made chairman of the Revenue and Taxation Committee last time by Democratic Speaker Robert Moore, is going to declare publicly in a matter of hours that he is a candidate for speaker in tomorrow’s caucus, which means he is seeking to take the job from the previously designated Republican choice, Rep. Trery Rice of Waldron.
Carter is risking driving a severe wedge in the already shaky new majority. He is doing so because he is convinced this new majority, possessed of only 51 votes, needs bolder leadership with an ability to engage Democrats to avoid polarization and gridlock.
His idea, I’m told, is to impose a Republican-leaning bipartsan “template” much like the Democrat-leaning one that outgoing Speaker Moore deployed to much bipartisan praise last year.
One thing that needs to be made clear: Carter, by voting record, is a bona fide conservative. But he is one who will put his strict ideology down long enough to pursue fair compromise and consensus.
Carter has encountered extreme anger among fellow Republicans, some of whom call him “traitor” or worse and accuse him of doing this via the manipulation of Gov. Mike Beeebe, who likes Carter a lot.
But, I am told, that is not the case.
Seriously, when you think about it: Is it Beebe’s style to inject himself into House business to try to drive wedges?
I am positive that Beebe would be thrilled if Carter got the speakership. But I have now concluded he is not puppeteering this thing.
Apparently, though, Carter has been in talks with previous speaker-designate, Democratic state Rep. Darrin Williams, and, apparently, Williams has indicated that, if he can’t have the speakership, he would encourage his caucus to go with Carter.
If Carter got all 49 Democratic votes, then the near-dozen Republican votes he is said to have via verbal asssurances would deliver him the speakership.
But, man, the hard feelings on Carter’s GOP right flank would then require some serious attention.