The Caucus DecidesSince the word has quite obviously leaked about Monday night's Tennessee House Republican Caucus meeting, I am reckoning that it is alright to reveal that I was informed of the vote on Monday night:
House Republican Caucus members have voted to allow House Speaker Kent Williams to continue attending their meetings, even though he's no longer officially a Republican.
Mumpower refused to provide any details of the vote, but other Republican legislators say a substantial majority favored Williams' continued presence at
caucus meetings."I don't want to betray the confidence of caucus members," said Mumpower in declining to give vote totals.
Based on what The World has heard, it would be hard to call the majority in favor of Williams "substantial" unless one would want to define that term rather loosely. However, the totals were more than enough to say that a solid number of Republicans favor keeping Kent Williams in the caucus. Put in a simple, more blunt way, members know they will need a 50th vote to get some important legislation passed, and many believe that Williams is the sort who might deny his vote not out of disagreement, but out of sheer spite.
The World will respect Jason Mumpower's desire not to discuss the matter further, except to say that this wasn't the "Naifeh boys" voting to keep Williams in, although Jimmy's so-called Republican allies very likely did put in their votes for Kent. For Williams to win this vote, he had to have conservative help-there is no way to have won without it. In no way is it revealing anything confidential to say that one of the votes to allow Kent Williams to remain in the GOP Caucus came from our own Frank Niceley. The reason it wouldn't be breaking any confidence or getting around the secrecy of the caucus room to reveal Niceley's vote is because Frank has admitted that he would vote to readmit Williams, so unless there was some epiphany to which Frank Niceley was subjected in the minutes leading up to the vote, it is safe to say that the gentleman farmer from Strawberry Plains voted exactly what he said that he would if given the opportunity.
UPDATE (3:15pm): One House Republican Caucus member has just seen this post and rang me personally. According to this member, there was never an official "vote" on the matter of whether Kent Williams should be allowed back into the caucus. Instead, members were essentially polled on whether they wanted to put this matter behind them, or continue to fight the Speaker over his status, thus allowing him to make himself the story. Few members demonstrated any trust for Williams, but most agreed that to continue to press the matter of Williams' status would allow Williams the ability to control the image of the caucus and its agenda. The poll was informal, according to the member in question, so it cannot be said that Williams actually got 25 or 26 votes in favor of himself in a formal sense.