…and it’s beginning to give off a very bad look for the House’s Speaker, Clay Schexnayder. Louisiana’s Senate committee assignments were released over a week ago.
Given that Schexnayder has a very difficult problem of maintaining a majority of support for his speakership, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s moving slowly with those committee assignments. Schexnayder is walking through a minefield where they’re concerned.
Let’s reset this so we understand the situation. Schexnayder won a 60-45 vote over Sherman Mack as the House Speaker. But he didn’t win with his own party; Mack carried 45 of the 68 House Republicans. Schexnayder’s majority of 60 votes was made with a bloc vote from all 35 Democrats, given to him by Gov. John Bel Edwards, the two independents and 23 Republicans.
Schexnayder’s Republicans were a mixed bag which included a few legitimate conservatives but also a host of moderates who it appears have used him as a vessel for their own purposes. One of them, Tanner Magee, is the new Speaker Pro Tem. That has traditionally been a mostly honorific position which doesn’t mean anything, but Magee seems intent on making it a platform to wield influence. For example…
Pro Tem @TannerDMagee says he and Speaker @SchexnayderClay are back from DC Mardi Gras. Meeting tomorrow to finalize committee assignments with complete list to be released Tuesday. Committee meetings set this week #lalege #lagov
— Greg Hilburn (@GregHilburn1) January 26, 2020
So they’re a day late on the committee assignments, which isn’t great, but it struck us as very interesting that Magee would be talking to the media about his role in placing House members on committees.
And to say that there is “concern” over the prospect that Tanner Magee would effectively be Louisiana’s House Speaker would be an insufficient characterization of what we’re hearing about this development.
There are 16 House committees. As we understand it, somewhere between five and seven of them will be chaired by Democrats. Two committees, as we understand, are likely to be chaired by their previous chairs – Ray Garofalo at Civil Law and Procedure, and Greg Miller at House and Governmental Affairs. Four others will be chaired by members of Schexnayder’s inner circle: Paula Davis at Insurance, Zee Zeringue at Natural Resources, and Stuart Bishop and Stephen Dwight at Appropriations and Ways and Means, though we’ve heard different predictions as to which.
That leaves 10 committees to dole out the chairmanships of. If Democrats end up with more of those committees than the 45 Republicans who voted for Mack chair, it’s going to mean Schexnayder will have zero ability to call for loyalty from the Mack faction.
Not to mention that Schexnayder would certainly hear from Magee that he needs to reward the other 15 Republicans who voted for him.
Assuming the Democrats get five committee chairmanships out of the assignments to be released this week, Schexnayder will only have five chairmanships available to placate his own people and cultivate Mack and his 45 votes.
There are four or five votes which only went to Schexnayder at the very end when it was clear he had a majority, and those people could fall away the minute they feel like they have a better option. Mack had 50 votes at one point just before the election. That means if only three Republicans aren’t satisfied either with their own committee assignments or what the picture looks like overall, Schexnayder might well face a coup d’etat and lose his speakership.
But if Schexnayder seeks to placate Republicans at the expense of the Democrats who voted for him, he could lose the support of most of the House members who voted for him. There is already dissatisfaction over the fact Magee is the Speaker Pro Tem rather than someone from the Legislative Black Caucus.
Where all of this leads is the exceptionally brittle nature of Schexnayder’s speakership. If those committee assignments aren’t just right, he could very easily find himself with the support of a minority of the House and this spring’s legislative session could well begin with a Motion to Vacate the Chair.