Chess Match in the House

I have several times in the past commended readers here to sign up to receive Jim Sullivan’s stupendous recap of doings on Beacon Hill, the Weekly Round-up at the State House News Service. In today’s review of last week’s shenanigans, there is a very interesting report regarding the behind-the-scenes skirmishing between Ways & Means Chairman Bob DeLeo and Majority Leader John Rogers, who have been engaged in a protracted and not-so-subtle battle for the succession rights to the Big Chair with the Gavel:

They also embarked Thursday night on a debate that was putatively about the siting of a data center in Springfield. Roundup secret: This debate had virtually nothing to do with the siting of a data center in Springfield. Majority Leader John Rogers opted to make the vote a dry run for when Speaker Salvatore DiMasi – and the entire Commonwealth rues the very notion of this – steps down from the rostrum.

What resulted was a remarkably uncomfortable several moments in the House. It was like sitting down to dinner with a family trying to poison each other’s meals and wondering if their own might have a little bit sprinkled in it. When it was over, and Ways and Means chair Robert DeLeo’s forces had come out on top, DeLeo accepted congratulations and the Rogers folks went back to their lists.

Then followed rumors and recriminations and, candidly, blatant lies about where each side stood. The spin was dizzying. DeLeo folks said they’ve got the speakership in the bag should DiMasi leave – and the entire Commonwealth rues the very notion of that – and Rogers people called that idea ridiculous.

The drama was delicious, vastly overshadowing the actual policy adjustments that were advanced, even as some of the members who were most intensely involved acknowledged that very few people outside the capitol have any interest whatsoever in who gets the gavel next.

Unfortunately, the House Journal for last Thursday is still not available (perhaps the Boston Firefighters’ skulduggery went awry?), so the story must wait to be fleshed out.

But I continue to believe that there is a big difference between these two heirs apparent, and that one of them is far better for the future of Massachusetts than the other. I also believe that it is a fight that the small band of House Republicans can, and should, influence.

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