DeLeo to seek yet another term as speaker
News comes as powerful House leader claims chairs can vote how they want
HOUSE SPEAKER Robert DeLeo, who four years ago oversaw the scuttling of term limits on his reign, said he doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon and intends to seek another two-year term as leader of the chamber.
The 69-year-old Winthrop Democrat who first joined the House in 1991 told the State House News Service on Monday morning that he intends to seek an unprecedented seventh consecutive term atop the House. DeLeo who is already the longest continually-serving speaker, will break the record for longest total time as speaker in February, according to the news service.
DeLeo, who supported an eight-year cap on the speakership until shortly before the House scotched the term-limit rule six years into his reign, said he could not pinpoint the moment when he decided to seek a return to the top House position. He also said he had never previously decided against another run.
“With so many things that go on, I don’t think it’s something you actually think about day in and day out,” DeLeo said Monday afternoon following a meeting with Senate President Karen Spilka and Gov. Charlie Baker.
“I still enjoy the job, and the reception from the folks within my district has been very good,” he said.
The unexpected announcement came on the same day DeLeo challenged an account that former state rep Jay Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat who was DeLeo’s longtime Revenue Committee chairman, gave about a contentious 2013 vote on a tax bill. In an interview on The Codcast, Kaufman said he thought the revenue that would be raised by the bill was insufficient, but DeLeo pressured him into voting for it, telling him that if he didn’t he would lose his chairmanship.
“He made it very clear to me that my options were to vote for it or not be part of any conversation going forward,” Kaufman said. “He said, ‘If you can’t vote for this, I can’t have you as part of my team.’”
DeLeo, who called Kaufman a “liar” in a statement Monday, suggested that those he appoints to chairmanships are not required to vote in particular ways.
“Chairs, or anyone else for that matter, can vote any ways. There are times that chairs do vote off,” he said, referring to a vote that goes against the leadership position.
There are many written rules of the House, including some that have historically been openly flouted or routinely suspended. There are also customs that, in practice, effectively function as unwritten rules, such as the prohibition on speaking in detail about conference committee negotiations, and the tradition of standing and applauding when a member speaks on the floor for the first time. Whether an enforced rule or not, members of leadership rarely vote against the wishes of the speaker, who generally only brings a bill to the floor in order to pass it.
While DeLeo has enjoyed either unanimous or nearly unanimous support from Democrats each time he’s sought reelection as speaker, association with the powerful House leader proved to be a political liability on at least one recent occasion, in the very liberal House district centered around Jamaica Plain.
“The allegation was that I had told him that he had to vote a certain way on a certain issue,” DeLeo said. “That simply was not true. It’s as simple as that.”