DeLeo reelected as Speaker
Neither Democrats nor Republicans mention Probation
LAST SUMMER, HOUSE Speaker Robert DeLeo defended himself aggressively against assertions by federal prosecutors that he was an unindicted coconspirator in the corruption trial that led to the conviction of three top former Probation officials. But those days seemed forgotten on Wednesday as DeLeo was reelected as speaker for the fourth time, making him the only incumbent of the top three leaders on Beacon Hill.
All 125 Democrats called DeLeo’s name one by one when it came time for a roll call while all 35 Republicans cast their votes for House Minority Leader Bradley Jones of Reading.
“I’ve looked at the polls,” DeLeo told Democrats in the morning caucus when he was nominated by the majority party to return as Speaker. “You vote for me and your favorability will rise 15 to 20 percent.”
The day was all about pomp and circumstance and light oratorical fare, with no damper put on the festivities by talking about legislative agendas or looming budget deficits. The only somber moments came when Rep. Angelo Scaccia of Hyde Park, the dean of the House who is entering his 23rd, two-year term, called for moments of silence in memory of two Boston firefighters killed last year in a Back Bay blaze and former lawmakers who passed away in 2014.
After the nomination, DeLeo delivered a few light remarks that were as much a roast of some of those in the room as they were an acceptance speech. Even his attempt to be serious was leavened with a joke.
“I’m just one person in this body,” he said, before pausing. “Well, sort of one person.”
This is, by rule, the last two-year term as speaker for DeLeo, who was first elected to the post in 2009. Term limits cap him and the Senate president to eight years. While there have been rumblings about DeLeo looking to overturn the rule, he deflected questions on that after the caucus. “What will happen in terms of rules and other legislation, we’ll let slide for another day,” he told reporters. “I’ll be honest with you. I really haven’t given it a heck of a lot of thought at this point.”
When the House convened in the chamber, it was more family party than formal session, as husbands, wives, significant others, and children swelled the ranks and the usually forbidden practice of picture- and video-taking was abandoned while the body is in session.
Jones, the Republican leader in the House, kept his remarks light. He acknowledged his wife and their 15th anniversary, which they were celebrating Wednesday. He didn’t mention the Probation scandal or one-party rule in the Legislature, instead focusing on his close relationship with DeLeo. While making a passing nod to GOP principles of smaller government, Jones said little about where his party would draw the line.“I can think of no better or clearer message that we can send regarding the economy and to the taxpayers than renewing your [DeLeo’s] pledge to refrain from any statewide tax increase,” Jones said in his speech from the floor. “The way to raise the revenues we need and the revenues we want is by broadening the base, not raising the rate. I am confident that by doing so, Mr. Speaker, you will have many allies in this chamber, as well as in the Corner Office.”
The House, though, shrank by two members, one on each side, as Democratic Rep. Carlo Basile of East Boston and Republican Rep. Matthew Beaton of Shrewsbury submitted their resignations to go work for incoming Gov. Charlie Baker. Special elections to replace each of them will be held on March 31.