COLUMBUS — The paralyzed Ohio House has scheduled a vote Wednesday that could bring its nail-biting speakership impasse to an end.
Law-making in the state has been at a standstill for weeks, as House Republicans spar over who should succeed former Republican Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who resigned last month amid an FBI investigation.
Federal agents searched Rosenberger's home and storage unit May 23 in a probe that's believed to center on the money and influence behind the 37-year-old ex-lawmaker's international travel and lavish lifestyle. Rosenberger says he has broken no laws.
His departure left No. 2 Rep. Kirk Schuring in charge of the chamber, but unable under House rules to pass any bills. Among measures stalled as a result are payday lending regulations, money for voting machines and a proposal that streamlines access to hunting and fishing licenses.
Schuring set a bar of 50 Republican votes for the caucus’ speaker pick. When no candidate could reach that threshold, he postponed the election indefinitely. Fifty votes represent the majority of the 99-member chamber, which has one empty seat that was Rosenberger's.
House Finance Chairman Ryan Smith, of Gallia County, said he had at least 47 votes and repeatedly urged Schuring to move forward with the vote and let the chips fall where they may.
A competing faction led by former Speaker Larry Householder backed term-limited Rep. Andy Thompson, of Marietta, on grounds that a short-term replacement stands a better chance of getting the chamber past the Rosenberger affair.
Both Smith and Householder want to be speaker next session, and Wednesday's outcome could impact that faceoff in January.
Schuring, Householder and Ohio Republican Chairman Jane Timken brokered a compromise that would have adjusted House rules to allow the House to pass bills with Schuring in charge. Smith refused to participate, alleging that Householder and his allies had bullied and threatened House members. Householder, who also was investigated by the FBI as speaker, denied the allegations.
Schuring finally decided to take a straw poll of members to see how to proceed, and most of those who participated said to call the vote.
Wednesday's vote will be between Smith, Thompson and House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn, of Dayton. Democrats, who control 33 votes, have said they'll throw their support behind Strahorn.
House Republican spokesman Brad Miller said five representatives — four Republicans and one Democrat — have indicated they will be absent Wednesday. That reduces the number of votes required to win to 47.
If no candidate wins support from a majority of those present after 10 rounds of voting, the person with the most votes on the 11th vote wins.
Members will have to cast their votes verbally, Miller said. That's because the voting apparatus in the chamber only allows for yes or no votes and so has no way to register a three-way contest.