October 8, 2015
Arizona Republic
Rebekah L. Sanders

The election for House Speaker that fell apart Thursday is a sign that Washington reform is ahead, conservatives say.

Some Arizona Republicans in Congress cheered Thursday’s stunning House leadership shake-up, saying that it was evidence of conservatives' success in reforming Washington and that it could open the door for new candidates to lead the GOP majority.

Among the names being bandied about: Arizona's Rep. Matt Salmon.

Minutes before the Republican conference was to elect its nominee for House speaker on Thursday, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the running, citing a lack of support. McCarthy had been considered a shoo-in to replace House Speaker John Boehner, who, under pressure from conservatives, abruptly announced last month that he would step down.

McCarthy's move left members of the GOP scrambling and his supporters in tears. No date had been set for the conference to select a speaker.

But others were celebrating.

U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and David Schweikert, Arizona conservative rabble-rousers, said House Republicans were poised to choose a leader that will give the rank-and-file a greater voice.

"Majority Leader McCarthy's decision today to drop out of the race for speaker shows that we can fight the status quo in Washington, D.C., and win," Gosar, R-Ariz., said in a statement. “Our next Speaker must empower the legislative process and allow for an open and accountable system that incorporates all members of Congress into important decisions."

The conservatives who called for Boehner's ouster were mobilizing to devise a plan.

"We need a champion to rally around. We've got to coalesce and support someone," said Adam Brandon, president of "tea party" group FreedomWorks.

Brandon cited Salmon as one possibility.

"We're looking for a candidate ideally who has shown a fidelity to our fiscal conservative principles, someone who has a record of not being intimidated ... who has a very good working relationship with lots of different members," Brandon said. "Salmon could do it."

Salmon couldn't be reached for comment.

Schweikert said the upheaval is redrawing alliances, and that may be a good thing.

"We were just taking floor votes, and I'm watching members who almost never talk to each other talking," he told The Arizona Republic. "There may be a really ironic benefit here that it does force a lot more family communication."

Schweikert said the divide in the party isn't left vs. right, moderate Republican vs. conservative: "This is reformers ... (vs.) others already vested with positions of influence who don't want to give that up."

Among the rank-and-file's demands are the freedom to offer more amendments, hear more bills and put new members on the steering committee that controls chairmanships.

Loosening rules on debate might lead to longer hours at the Capitol and greater difficulty passing bills in a body that is already grappling with historic gridlock. But that's what the Founding Fathers intended, Schweikert said.

"It actually is not supposed to be simple and efficient and tidy. It's supposed to be cantankerous and contentious and back and forth. ... Yes, you work into people's dinner hours, and you work overnight, and you fuss with each other," he said. "It's that movement that actually purifies the ideas and makes sure people in this country have a voice."

Schweikert praised Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., as a good candidate for the gavel, saying that Webster implemented reforms to open up debate while speaker in the Florida House. But unlike Gosar and Salmon, who had endorsed Webster on Wednesday, Schweikert said he was withholding judgment until he can review proposals from all candidates.

Not all Arizona Republicans were pleased by Thursday's chaos.

Rep. Martha McSally, who has charted a more moderate course in her first year on Capitol Hill, said the dissension distracts from pressing issues.

"We should be focusing on the fact that the president has threatened to block our country's defense funding legislation, Russia is sending cruise missiles into Syria, and we still don't have a long-term solution for our Highway Trust Fund," she said in a statement. "It's time we unite as a team and move forward to address the problems that Americans elected us to solve because they are tired of the theatrics and distractions."

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