CONCORD – The battle for control of the New Hampshire House continues today in the aftermath of a major upset in race for speaker.
Rep. Bill O’Brien, after losing his bid to become speaker, has issued a call for a caucus of House Republicans for Monday to, in effect, try to elect one of his allies House Majority Leader.
The person elected would be designated as the House Republican Leader for the purpose of serving on the Republican State Committee executive committee, but O’Brien is proposing further designating “that elected House Republican Leader as the Majority Leader of the House this term.”
The caucus would consider a resolution stating that “the Republican Caucus (a) will support a House Rule for this session requiring the Speaker to appoint the elected leaders of the Majority and Minority parties as the Majority Leader and Minority Leaders respectively and (b) that the House Republican Leader elected at this caucus is the Majority Leader for this term and shall be appointed by the Speaker.”
O’Brien wrote on Facebook that he does not intend to seek this position. Neither he nor one of his top allies, Rep. Steve Stepanek, immediately returned calls seeking comment.
As the New Hampshire Journal first reported Thursday morning (see story below), the NHGOP believes that its bylaws do not allow newly elected Speaker Shawn Jasper to serve on the NHGOP executive committee because he was not “selected by a majority vote of the Republican caucus.”
Jasper told the Journal Thursday afternoon that he intends to appoint his own Majority Leader – along with the remainder of his leadership team and committee chairs – next Wednesday.
Jasper also said O’Brien and his allies have no standing to call a caucus.
“Quite frankly,” Jasper said, “only the majority leader can call a caucus and we don’t have one now. And I will not call one for that purpose. It is not in the rules.
“I’d think that one area that Representative O’Brien and I can agree on is that having an elected majority leader was a total, unmitigated disaster.”
O’Brien, as speaker in 2010, allowed the caucus to elect its own majority leader, and it selected D.J. Bettencourt. Jasper himself was the deputy majority leader during part of that tumultuous period.
As for whether he can serve on the party executive committee, Jasper said that because he was elected by secret ballot, “how can they say that I wasn’t elected by the Republican caucus? That’s a bit presumptuous.
“I certainly think I will leave that matter (of representation on the party executive committee) to the chairman of the party and the executive committee,” Jasper said.
O’Brien’s call, posted on Facebook, follows:
All currently seated Republican representatives who want to join in a call of a House Republican caucus for 10 am, Monday December 8, 2014 (that is this Monday), please contact / register your support of the call with,
Rep. Steve Stepanek
Your names will be added to the call.
The purpose of the caucus will be -
1. Election of a House Republican Leader for the Executive Committee of the Republican State Committee.
2. Designation of that elected House Republican Leader as the Majority Leader of the House this term.
3. Consideration of a Resolution stating that the Republican Caucus (a) will support a House Rule for this session requiring the Speaker to appoint the elected leaders of the Majority and Minority parties as the Majority Leader and Minority Leaders respectively and (b) that the House Republican Leader elected at this caucus is the Majority Leader for this term and shall be appointed by the Speaker.
The venue is the Grappone Center in Concord. The room has been reserved.
We have reason to believe that the State Party will only accept the elected leader out of this caucus as the Republican House Leader for the Executive Committee meeting.
The notice of the caucus that will be sent to all Republican members this term will set out that leadership nominations will be taken from the floor at the meeting and seconded. Open votes will designate the winner.
Please note that it is not my intention to run for this position.
(Our earlier report follows.)
Under NHGOP bylaw, Speaker Jasper can’t serve on party exec committee
CONCORD — It appears newly-elected Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper does not meet the state Republican Party’s qualifications to serve on the party’s executive committee, a group of 36 party leaders who serve as a board of directors overseeing party operations and policy.
A party bylaw says that the members of the executive committee includes “the Republican Leader of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, selected by a majority vote of the Republican caucus.”
But since Jasper was not elected “by a majority vote of the Republican caucus,” and was elected by a coalition of mostly Democrats and some Republicans, he apparently does not qualify.
GOP sources said the by-law was changed after Doug Scamman in 2004 was elected Speaker by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans after he did not win the Republican House caucus.
State Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Horn, who backed House GOP caucus winner Bill O’Brien in the speaker’s race, said, “The bylaws outlining qualifications for serving on the Executive Committee will be discussed at our next meeting,” which is scheduled for Dec. 15.
“As chairman, I am committed to ensuring that our House Republican Caucus is represented on the Executive Committee by a person who has actually been selected by a majority of Republican members. We need strong conservative voices on this important body,” Horn said.
Reacting to the election of Jasper as Speaker and the defeat of House GOP caucus choice Bill O’Brien, Horn posted on Facebook Tuesday night:
“I am proud to have stood with our caucus nominee for Speaker today, Bill O’Brien. When I became chairman I promised you the party would stand with our nominees, loud and clear, and today was no exception. Rep. O’Brien won the nomination in a fair and open process and he earned the support of the caucus. Our party is strongest when we are united in effort and purpose and I am disappointed that we did not elect the nominee of the Republican House Caucus as Speaker today.”
Meanwhile, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley said:
“I hope that Representative Shawn Jasper will not forget that he needed Democratic support to become Speaker, and that he will work with Governor Hassan to solve problems and move New Hampshire’s economy forward.
“(Wednesday’s) events make clear that the crisis in the New Hampshire Republican Party is far worse than we thought. After days of intra-party fighting, House Republicans decided to buck party leaders Kelly Ayotte and Jennifer Horn who worked behind the scenes to support Bill O’Brien’s divisive partisanship,” Buckley said.
“While the first day of the House Republicans’ new majority resulted in total chaos, it is now time to build on the bipartisan spirit that prevented another O’Brien speakership and work across party lines to get results for New Hampshire’s people, businesses, and economy,” said Buckley.