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Dan Webster's blueprint for being House speaker: Flatten the pyramid, fix the process

Dan WebsterU.S. Rep. Dan Webster's bid to become speaker of the U.S. House may hinge on many things, not the least of which is his district may become doomed by redistricting, but he has put into writing what he thinks should be done to end Washington's hyper-dysfunction.

In short: leaders enable their membership, empower them with responsibility for which they are held accountable and that flattens the power pyramid.

“My goal is for the House of Representatives to be based on principle, not on power. Every Member of Congress deserves a seat at the table to be involved in the process,'' Webster said in a statement on Friday. "I will continue fighting for this to become a reality in Washington, and will be running for Speaker of the House.”

Webster, R-Winter Garden, told the Herald/Times two weeks before House Speaker John Boehner announced he would retire at the end of October that "the key" to dismantling the dysfunction of both Congress and the Florida Legislature "is you have to understand that power and principle cannot co exist.'' 

We were talking to Webster about his experience in reforming the House system, in light of the manifesto proposed by incoming Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran to flatten the power structure and diminish what he considers the corrupting influence of special interests in the legislative process.

Webster spelled it out in this one-page white paper after the mid-term elections.

"A power system is where you have a pyramid of power but the decision of what’s going to be taken up and how it’s going to work is made by those few people,'' Webster told us.  "Everything that’s done is done purposefully. There was a reason every year. We built ourselves to an exponential train wreck...It becomes a control issue. You control your membership and you rule."

Webster, who was Florida House Speaker from 1996-98, believes a new approach is in order if the Republican Party is going to save itself from the internecine fighting that is tearing at its core. 

"If principles don't determine what you are going to pass or do, then power will,'' he said. "Power says if you are a committee chairman your idea is good only bec you have got power. Under a principle-based system, you push down the power and then you have to judge things exactly as they are."

As the first Republican House Speaker since Reconstruction in Florida, Webster said his fellow Republicans "were hungry to do to Democrats what they had done to us for 100 years. It's kind of natural."

But Webster rejected that approach. "I told them we are going to have a member-driven principle-based system and we are going to allow people the opportunity to succeed if it doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or a liberal or a conservative. It's going to matter what your idea says and we're going to judge it on that basis."

Webster's two-year term in Florida ended without an "organized train wreck." The final day of the 60-day session ended at 6 p.m. and he and Senate President Toni Jennings celebrated by raising a glass of orange juice in the Capitol rotunda, with former Gov. Lawton Chiles serving them with a white napkins draped over his sleeve.

Legislators -- Republican and Democrat -- and lobbyists cheered. "They’re not cheering for me,'' Webster said he thought. "They're cheering because the system was defeated."

Since then, the power pyramid has systematically been reassembled with Republicans in control. Corcoran, a product of the system, vows to change that.

Webster tried and failed to conduct a coup against Boehner last year and it appears his chances of becoming speaker are low. But Imagine judging things exactly as they are in American politics? What could happen?