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Rift among Republican lawmakers leads to uproar on the Ohio House floor

Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) raises an objection to House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) who refused to hear a motion from a fellow House Republican lawmaker on January 24, 2023.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) raises an objection to House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) who refused to hear a motion from a fellow House Republican lawmaker on January 24, 2023.

Uproar broke out on the Ohio House floor Tuesday after House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) refused to hear a motion from a member of his own Republican caucus.

The disarray signaled the latest phase in the rift between House Republicans that stems from the House speaker vote earlier this month.

Merrin won the unofficial caucus vote for speaker in December and received a two-thirds majority of Republican votes in the official vote. But he fell short of the speakership after Stephens secured 22 House Republican votes and all of the votes from House Democrats.

Rep. Josh Williams (R-Oregon) tried to offer amendments to the House Republican leadership proposal and the proposal on House rules during Tuesday’s session. Stephens moved to a vote without letting Williams present his amendments.

Shouts of“order!” and “point of order!” carried out on the House floor in an attempt to stop the vote. But the objections were rejected and the originally proposed rules were approved.

“It's clear we need to move forward to get Ohio going forward,” Stephens said after the session. “And you know, I'm the speaker of the House, the head of the Republican caucus, and I'm excited for us to get ready and move forward.”

Williams noted that he’s the first Black Republican House member in 50 years and suggested a legal challenge in court could be raised if his objections continue to go unheard.

“Today, once again, Black people weren't recognized by a Republican caucus. So, it was unfortunate. I thought we were going to do better. Hopefully, moving forward, we will do better,” Williams said.

Political arm of House Republican Caucus

Before session started, Merrin issued a press release announcing that the House Republican Caucus held a vote to make Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) the chair of the Ohio House Republican Alliance campaign committee.

This is the political arm of the caucus and had more than $3 million in its war chest before the 2022 election. Merrin said Plummer was elected by a majority vote of the Republican caucus during a meeting that was open to all members.

But Stephens emphasized that he is the leader of the House Republican Caucus and that the Ohio House Republican Alliance account runs through the speaker.

Plummer countered that assertion and said, “I was elected the chair of the political arm. So if he wants to keep challenging us with this disrespect he just did - this was worse than Larry Householder, ever,” said Plummer, referring to the former Ohio House speaker who was expelled after being accused of taking $61 million in bribes in exchange for passing a nuclear power plant bailout.

Plummer also said Stephens should resign due to his actions during session and if the “disrespect” continued then “game’s on.”

That would suggest the possibility of blocked legislation or primary challenges in 2024.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.
Contact Andy at achow@statehousenews.org.