DeLeo’s extended term dalliance
Federal prosecutors never went directly after House Speaker Robert DeLeo in the recently concluded Probation Department trial that snared three key department officials. But by labeling him an unindicted co-conspirator, they did just enough to mar his reputation going forward.
Instead of keeping his head down, DeLeo — who expressed outrage at the feds’ muddying him up without filing actual charges — says he is “flattered” by the interest in hip-checking speakership term limits into the dustbin of history.
In some state houses, troubles of DeLeo’s sort might prompt a full-scale rush for the speaker’s chair. Instead, the only chatter about DeLeo’s reign has revolved around the idea of a possible move to extend the rule limiting the speaker to eight years in power. If left unchanged, it would allow DeLeo one more full two-year term as speaker starting in January.
The idea that there could be an effort to extend DeLeo’s term started with Boston magazine’s David Bernstein. But, at least publicly, it seems to be ending with him, too.
One member offered general support for the term limit rule, even while making sure to praise effusively DeLeo’s leadership. Worthington’s Stephen Kulik, the House Ways and Means Committee vice chairman, called terms limits a “good idea,” even with the “very successful leadership” shown by DeLeo.
It might seem to strain credibility for House members to say they aren’t talking among themselves about the speaker’s power grab, and, what if anything, they should do about it. But, as Metzger writes, “Initiatives within the House are not necessarily widely known among the members.”
The calculus in the House appears to be that it is better to say nothing publicly about term limits lest one incur DeLeo’s wrath. The legend of Charlie Murphy still serves as a powerful deterrent.
Perhaps DeLeo’s brush with US Attorney Carmen Ortiz should give him pause about making so bold a power play so soon. But with his members cowed and an apathetic electorate expecting shenanigans at every turn, DeLeo seems confident that he’ll be able to consolidate his power in the House under the next governor, and perhaps even for a while beyond.
— GABRIELLE GURLEY
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