COLUMBUS — House Republicans in Ohio again brought their decision on former House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s successor to a halt, calling off a scheduled vote that’s needed before any more laws can be made.
The official reason for canceling Tuesday’s vote on an interim speaker was too few lawmakers could attend.
However, there were also rumblings that the impasse that kept Republicans from selecting a speaker last week hadn’t been resolved.
Beyond that, Democrats had challenged Tuesday’s session as improper, and raised the possibility that all the bills passed under a speaker selected in violation of the rules could be jeopardized.
State Rep. David Leland, a Columbus Democrat, said the date was added to the House calendar by the chamber’s acting leader, President Pro Tem Kirk Schuring, while House rules say only the speaker has that power.
Schuring’s spokesman, Brad Miller, dismissed that argument.
"Throughout the course of (Monday) afternoon, it became apparent that members would not be able to attend (Tuesday’s) session," he said in an email. "Therefore, the decision was made to move the vote to elect a speaker to the following, previously scheduled session day," which is Wednesday.
Filling the void left by Rosenberger’s unusual mid-session resignation in April has been a rocky process. The Clarksville Republican resigned amid FBI questioning surrounding his international travel and lavish lifestyle, saying he had broken no laws but knew the process would take time and be a distraction.
Members of the Republican caucus he formerly led met last week to select a person to fill Rosenberger’s role through the end of the year — but they couldn’t come to an agreement. None of the three candidates vying to fill Rosenberger’s unexpired term could secure the 50 votes needed, despite hours of negotiations.
Miller said Monday that Republican state Rep. Ryan Smith, chair of the powerful Finance Committee, had the necessary support, which was why Tuesday’s session was called. He noted a speaker election "must occur before any legislation is voted on by the chamber."
Smith, of Gallia, was vying for the interim speakership, which lasts through year’s end, along with Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, of Marysville, and state Rep. Andy Thompson, of Marietta.
Both rival lawmakers pitched themselves as neutral placeholders who could restore normalcy and integrity to the chamber after Rosenberger’s resignation and a string of bad headlines related to sexual misconduct by members put a cloud over the House. Smith, who was Rosenberger’s hand-picked successor, had the most votes, but not enough, Schuring said then.
Smith’s ascension to the speakership now could position him handily in a brewing speaker fight for the full two-year session beginning in January against state Rep. Larry Householder, who formerly led the chamber. Householder helped elect nearly a dozen candidates in this month’s primary elections who are expected to support him when the next speaker vote comes in January.
Householder did not seek the interim post.