Ohio GOP House leaders call for caucus meeting next week amid plans for new speaker

WATCH: Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, 4 others arrested in $60 million bribery case

COLUMBUS (FOX19) - Several Ohio lawmakers and state office holders like Gov. DeWine and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost have called all week for House Speaker Larry Householder to resign in light of his arrest in what federal officials say is likely the largest corruption case in state history.

Householder, however, has not stepped down. He responded “No” when a reporter asked him outside the federal courthouse in Columbus if he would resign.

He has not publicly spoken, and his attorney declined comment Friday.

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Householder’s leadership team including Speaker Pro Tempore Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, Householder’s No. 2 had a “very brief” telephone conversation with his attorney Friday, FOX19 NOW has learned.

They also called a meeting of the GOP caucus in Columbus Tuesday afternoon as some lawmakers make plans for a new speaker.

AG Yost and Ohio GOP Party Chairwoman Jane Timken are expected to attend, FOX19 NOW has confirmed.

We obtained a copy of the communication sent to lawmakers alerting them of the meeting:

Fellow Members of the Majority Caucus,

In light of recent unfortunate events, many members have questions, particularly those in campaigns. It is important for the caucus to come together to discuss the issues we face, our next steps and the impact of all of this on our future. Accordingly, we plan on meeting this Tuesday, July 28th at 2.00 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel in Columbus for a discussion among any and all majority caucus members who wish to attend. Please feel free to continue to reach out to any of us personally with questions.

Sincerely, Jim Butler, Bill Seitz, Jay Edwards, Tony DeVitis, & Laura Lanese

A Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity because the source is not authorized to discuss the issue said the caucus is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to proceed with trying to remove Householder as speaker at this point and discuss possible replacements.

“Even his top generals are saying he’s got to go,” the source tells FOX19 NOW. “If he is innocent, he should stay and fight, but he can’t be speaker. He sucks all the oxygen out of the room with this thing over his head.”

Yost has said if Householder refuses to resign, the House “should eject him under Article II, section 6 of the Ohio Constitution.”

We looked it up. It states House lawmakers can expel a member with a vote of two-thirds of legislators for “disorderly conduct.”

Here it is in its entirety:

“Each house shall be the judge of the election, returns, and qualifications of its own members. A majority of all the members elected to each house shall be a quorum to do business; but, a less number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties, as shall be prescribed by law.

“Each house may punish its members for disorderly conduct and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of the members elected thereto, expel a member, but not the second time for the same cause. Each house has all powers necessary to provide for its safety and the undisturbed transaction of its business, and to obtain, through committees or otherwise, information affecting legislative action under consideration or in contemplation, or with reference to any alleged breach of its privileges or misconduct of its members, and to that end to enforce the attendance and testimony of witnesses, and the production of books and papers.”

There are two potential replacements being named for a new speaker.

Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, appears to be the leading contender. He is serving his third House term and previously was a state senator and Ohio Supreme Court justice.

Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, released a statement Friday supporting Cupp.

Another potential candidate is State Rep. Rick Carfagna, R-Genoa Township.

State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, is part of Householder’s majority leadership team.

“There are a number of constitutional statutory and rules questions that are being researched and analyzed by a battery of lawyers. Until we have those answers, we have nothing further to report today,” Seitz tells FOX19 NOW.

When we asked him about the meeting Tuesday, he said: ”It will be a confidential caucus to talk about our campaigns going forward and further discuss efforts by some to engender the resignation or removal of the speaker. Some people want to talk about that.

“So we will give everybody the opportunity to have that discussion. I want to hear from my colleagues and I want to get the legal answers. I have not talked to Larry and, to my knowledge, nobody else has either.”

He declined to give details about the conversation he and other members of Householder’s leadership team had with Householder’s lawyer Friday.

“We just did that this afternoon. I’m not going to get into that. We did have a very brief conversation with David Thomas,” Seitz said.

He suggested we contact Householder’s attorney for details, saying: “Maybe he’ll tell you what the speaker’s currently thinking is, but I am not going to do that with you.”

Lawmakers would need to hold a session in order to hold a vote. They are not scheduled to meet again until September.

The speaker - Householder - is the one who calls for or schedules a session.

Gov. DeWine said Wednesday he’s talking to House members and feels it’s their obligation to deal with removing Householder.

“But if it’s necessary for us to call the legislature into session, give them a specific topic which would be the speakership, I certainly would not hesitate to do that at all,” DeWine said.

In 2018, then-House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned amid FBI scrutiny after his home and office were raided. No charges were filed.

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