No Unity for McDanielKen Whitehouse reported in yesterday's Nashville Post that, lo and behold, the House Republican Caucus may not have enough votes to make Steve McDaniel the Speaker Pro Tempore:
According to several NashvillePost.com sources, the GOP candidate for Speaker Pro Tempore of the House, Rep. Steve McDaniel of Parker's Crossroads, has a long way to go to get the 50 Republican votes needed to get the job. Republicans have a one-seat majority in the State House and any defections jeopardize their control of legislative offices.
McDaniel was challenged last month for the spot in a Republican caucus meeting by State Rep. Frank Niceley of Knoxville. In that election, Niceley said that he had always "remained loyal to the Republican caucus" and attacked McDaniel for not being a "true believer."
He then pointed to McDaniel having voted for Naifeh in the past and carrying former Republican Gov. Don Sundquist's proposed income tax legislation when McDaniel served in the GOP leadership.
While McDaniel carried the day, more conservative members of the caucus were not happy and their dissatisfaction appears to have placed his ascent to the slot of Speaker Pro Tempore of the House in jeopardy.
Ken Whitehouse is probably the best political reporter in Nashville. I didn't merely want to take Whitehouse's story at face value, however, so I did some snooping around of my own. Everyone I talked to didn't want their name mentioned, but based on what I've heard from people on the Hill, I believe Ken Whitehouse's story is spot on. If the vote on the floor for Speaker Pro Tempore were held today, Steve McDaniel would very likely not win, as he does not appear to be close to 50 votes at this hour.
As to who might win, that really is a mystery. Frank Niceley, McDaniel's initial caucus opponent and my own Representative, has said that he will remain loyal to the caucus and that he would vote for McDaniel on the floor. However, it should be noted that Frank might feel that he is relieved of that obligation if it becomes abundantly clear that McDaniel will not have 50 votes even with the exercise of the Niceley franchise in his favor. Mum seems to be the word on who an alternative might be for the Republicans for Speaker Pro Tem if McDaniel simply doesn't have the votes. Some members of the caucus feel that McDaniel was promised the Speaker Pro Tempore post as part of a deal to guarantee McDaniel's vote for Jason Mumpower for Speaker, despite Mumpower's repeated assertions to the contrary. Among those who feel this way, there seems to be the notion that this bargain was something akin to selling one's soul to the Devil.
None of this is to say that Steve McDaniel won't pull out a victory on the floor at the end of the day, but to do so, there may have to be more bone throwing than arm twisting in order to achieve that result.