By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Mike Hubbard has no plans to vacate his leadership role as Speaker of the House, even though he has been charged with 23 felony counts of public corruption.
If he were the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, he would be forced to step down, pursuant to rules 25 and 26, of the U.S. House Republican Caucus, no questions asked and no excuses given. Those are the rules and there are consequences for breaking those rules in Washington, DC.
According to the U.S. House Republican caucus rules, anyone in leadership who is “indicted for a felony for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed” must step aside. The person in leadership may be reinstated if found not guilty of the offense, but until then, that individual cannot hold any position of authority in the House.
This certainly fits the situation in which Hubbard now finds himself. But, the Alabama House Republican Caucus apparently doesn’t have such a rule. They could adopt a rule like the one enshrined by the U.S. House Republican caucus, in fact they could do it on Nov. 6, the day Hubbard hopes to be reelected as Speaker.
No one, with whom we spoke, had any knowledge whether or not the Alabama Republican House Caucus actually has such a rule. We were informed that only the Speaker and the Majority leader have copies, and our request fell on deaf ears.
Rules 25 and 26 governing such situations read as follows:
Rule 25—Temporary Step Aside of a Chairman who is Indicted
(a) The Chairman of a standing, select, joint or ad hoc committee, or any subcommittee thereof, who is indicted for a felony for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed, shall step aside in favor of the next ranking Republican Member of the committee or subcommittee concerned who shall serve as acting Chairman for the remainder of the Congress, unless the Steering Committee nominates a Member consistent with Rule 14, or unless the Chairman resumes his position in accord with paragraphs (b) or (c) of this rule.
(b) If a Chairman steps aside and subsequently during that Congress the charges are dismissed or reduced to less than a felony as described in paragraph 1 or this section, or if the Member is found not guilty of said charges, the Chairman shall automatically resume the powers and duties of the position of the Chairman unless the Conference within 10 legislative days decides otherwise.
(c) The conference may waive the provisions of this rule at any time by majority vote.
Rule 26—Temporary Step Aside of a Member of Leadership who is Indicted
(a) A Member of the leadership shall step aside if indicted for a felony for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed.
(b) If a Member of the Republican leadership is indicted, the Republican Conference shall meet and elect a Member to temporarily serve in that position.
Here in Alabama, there is always a finger pointing at the corruption in DC. However, on this point, it would seem the DC folks are much more serious about felony charges than here at home.
This certainly raises further questions about U.S. Representative Mike Rogers, denigrating the State’s Attorney General on Hubbard’s behalf. Does Rogers not think that State Republican leadership should live by the same ethical standards as the Republican House members in DC?
There are some in the House Republican Caucus who are pushing for a secret ballot on the election of officers, including the Speaker. This is not unprecedented, as Majority Leader Micky Hammon was chosen in a secret ballot. Ask Rep. Mike Ball who was stunned when his own caucus turned on him in 2010.
There are rumblings for Hubbard to step aside, not only among House members, but also by those on the ALGOP Executive Committee. Even some national figures have started to fret about how much Hubbard’s continued leadership could damage the party.
A possible conviction on any of the 23 count of which he is indicted has GOP leaders worried that Hubbard will become the poster boy for corruption in the party, especially in swing-states.
For now, Hubbard may be a State embarrassment. But, if convicted, he will assuredly become widely known as the face of the New South GOP.
On Nov. 6, a handful of House Republicans will have an opportunity to either do what is right for the party and the State, or do what Hubbard wants them to do.
Those who vote for Hubbard as speaker, rules chair, or to any position of power will be holding State Republicans to a lower standard than the U.S. House, and risk tainting themselves and the party for years to come.