If Republicans are unable to agree on a candidate for Speaker of the House to replace John Boehner, it is possible that Boehner could stay on in that position until GOP lawmakers rally behind one fellow Republican.
The office of the House Parliamentarian made clear to reporters on Tuesday that this unusual transition of power during a Congressional session will depend mainly on how Boehner tenders his resignation.
That means if no Republican gains a majority of votes during a scheduled election on October 29, then Boehner might have to delay his planned resignation on October 30.
The idea of a contingent resignation is not new, as it happened back in 1989; then Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX) announced that he would resign “on the election of my successor.”
Wright left his post after leadership elections a week later.
Most examples of a vacancy in the office of Speaker result either from electoral change or death, not someone leaving the post voluntarily during a session. That happened in 1814, and again in 1834:
When such a change occurs, the Clerk of the House is in charge of convening the House, and calling for the election of a new Speaker.
From examining House rules and precedents, it seems that if the Clerk is in charge – with no Speaker in the post – then no legislative business could be conducted by the House until a new Speaker is elected.
That possibility would be avoided by Boehner remaining on as Speaker, until a Republican garners a majority on the floor of the House.
Boehner plans to leave Congress on October 30. We’ll see if the GOP can make that happen.