The 17 members of the House of Representatives who contested the December 8 Senatorial election, only three were elected, creating pending by-elections that are expected to be held in 120 days.
Representives elected as Senators are Deputy Speaker Prince Moye (Bong County, Collaborating Political Parties); Rep. Zoe E. Pennue (Grand Gedeh County, Coalition for Democratic Change); Rep. Edwin M. Snowe (Bomi County, Independent).
The election of the three Representatives, created openings — most especially the Deputy Speaker post; and the openings coincided with the appointment of chairmen and co-chairmen of statutory and standing committees, which Rule 54.1 mandates the Speaker to do after three years — which initiated the power struggle.
Besides the vacancy in the second top position of the House, and the legitimate appointment of committees’ heads, there are also political schemes launched by majority members of the Lower House which threatened the removal of Speaker Bhofal Chambers, against appointing failed Representatives into statutory committees.
Of the 17 Representatives, only five were in leadership and then two of the five were elected, leaving three to fall in the trap against their reappointments; namely, the current chairman on the Committee on Ways, Means and Finance, Rep. Thomas Fallah of Montserrado; the Chairperson on Rules, Orders and Administration, Rep. Mariamu Fofana of Lofa County; and Rep. Alfred Koiwood of Gbarpolu, chairman on National Security, were defeated.
Most lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties, including independents, are part of the majority bloc against their reappointments.
For the position of the Deputy Speaker, its an elected position while the other committee chairpersons and co-chairpersons are appointed by the Speaker.
According to the rules of the House of Representatives under VACANCIES AND ABSENCES ON COMMITTEES
“(54.1) All committee chairpersons and members shall serve for (3) three years, but only the chairperson and co-chairperson are subject to removal by 2/3 majority vote of the Members of the House for a cause.”
These lawmakers have already served for three years on their committees and subject to removal by the Speaker.
“(54.2) Should the chairperson of any committee for any cause cease to serve, it shall be the duty of the Speaker to appoint a new chairperson in consultation with the leadership of the House.”
The lawmakers are arguing that the aforementioned leaders of the House have abandoned their duties on leadership to contest in the senatorial election.
Similar power struggle over reappointments in the House of Representatives led to controversies and the ousting of Speaker Alex Tyler, who was replaced by Emmanuel Nuquay.
The replacements resulted to series of protests including the accusations of corruption, conflict of interest and unfitness to lead.
With the reelection of the political leader of the Liberty Party (LP), Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa County, one of the contenders for the chairmanship of LP, Musa Bility, has begun an early campaign for the LP leader to be the new President Pro Tempore.
The possibility for an opposition lawmaker to be elected as the President Pro Tempore would be possible because, it appears, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and independent candidates have been projected to gain control of the Senate.
Currently, out of the 15 seated Senators, 11 are from the opposition, including Senators Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mount); Gleh-bo Brown (Maryland), Jim Tornolah (Margibi), Dr. Henrique Tokpah (Bong), Conmany Wesseh (River Gee), Jonathan Kaipay (Grand Bassa), Francis Paye (Rivercess), Milton Teahjay (Sinoe), Steve Zargo (Lofa), Morris Saytumah (Bomi) and Daniel Naatehn (Gbarpolu).
The current CDC Senators include Albert T. Chie (Grand Kru), Saah Joseph (Montserrado), and Marshall Dennis (Grand Gedeh), while Sen. Prince Y. Johnson (Nimba) is a regime collaborator.
The initial results of the December 8 senatorial election showed that the CPP and independent candidates had won 11 seats, which had summed the non-ruling party senators to in the senate to 22, making up more than two-thirds to control the leadership and the passage and rejection of any bill.
The newly-elected opposition senators are Abraham D. Dillon (Incumbent, Montserrado), Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence (Incumbent, Grand Bassa) Brownie Samukai (Lofa), Simeon B. Taylor (Grand Cape Mount), Prince K. Moye (Bong), Edwin M. Snowe (Bomi), J. Emmanuel Nuquay (Margibi), Wellington Geevon Smith (Rivercess), and Jonathan ‘Boycharles’ Sogbie (River Gee).
In Grand Kru, the winner is still undecided — the CDC candidate is out of contention, while the tight race is between two opposition candidates. Rep. Nathaniel Zoe Barway of LINU and independent candidate Numene T.H. Bartekwa.
The CDC has so far won three of the 15 seats, Sen. Augustine S. Cheah (Sinoe), Z. Emmanuel Pennue (Grand Gedeh), and James P. Biney (Maryland).
And sadly, out of the 14 incumbent Senators who were contesting for re-election, only three were successful — Sen. Lawrence, Sen. Dillon and Sen. Cheah.
Interestingly, the House of Representatives is controlled by the ruling party, while the Senate will now be controlled by the opposition. Despite their respective spheres of “control”, both will have to coordinate and collaborate.
The Constitution says the legislative power of the Republic shall be vested in the Legislature of Liberia which shall consist of two separate houses: A Senate and a House of Representatives, both of which must pass on all legislation.
A sticky issue which needs coordination is the introduction of bills. For instance, bills may be introduced by any member of either house.
However, the Constitution provides that: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” As a result, the Senate does not have the power to initiate bills imposing taxes. Furthermore, the House of Representatives holds that the Senate does not have the power to originate appropriation bills, or bills authorizing the expenditure of federal funds.
Historically, the Senate has disputed the interpretation advocated by the House. However, whenever the Senate originates an appropriations bill, the House simply refuses to consider it, thereby settling the dispute in practice.
Nevertheless, while the Senate cannot originate revenue and appropriation bills, it does retain the power to amend or reject them. And for the Senate, it has an undisputed authority to question Presidential nominees where applicable. And after questioning, will either confirm or reject.
Additionally, the Legislature has authority over financial and budgetary policy through the enumerated power to levy and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the country.