The Congress often chooses the first Tuesday after January 1 to meet; but as January 3, 2007 falls on a Wednesday, it is likely they will decide that Constitutional suggestion is just fine.
I think it is very likely that we will not know whether Republicans or Democrats will organize the House until the vote for Speaker is taken sometime in the early afternoon of January 3, 2007.
As of today, the last three people this side of the planet formerly known as Pluto who think the GOP will maintain control of the Congress are Karl Rove, Mary Matalin and me.
Let us assume that one side or the other ends up with a three seat margin: The GOP holds its losses to 12 seats; or the Dems pick up 18 seats.
That assumes that every one of the 435 individual elections produce clear winners on election night.
Ain't gonna happen.
There will be a minimum of four and perhaps as many as 8 or 9 recounts. And because so much is at stake, every close election will be fought to the fourth corner of the last hanging chad of the final contested ballot.
In 1984 the recount of the election to determine a winner in southwest Indiana went well past the opening of Congress in 1985. Some years later, a recount in which I was involved, just west of St. Louis, went until just days before Christmas.
It is very possible that the number of recounts will exceed the margin either party has as we move through November and into December.
But wait! There's more!
Even after the recounts are resolved there might not be more than two or three seats separating the two parties.
If that is the case, then there will be heavy, heavy horse trading to get Members to switch parties.
Assume the GOP has a two-seat edge after all is said and done from election day and the recounts. The Democrats will go sifting through the small list of moderate Republicans and offer huge bounties to switch parties.
Switching parties is accomplished by simply announcing you are now joining the other guys and walking across the aisle. The proof of the pudding on January 3 is whether one votes for the Republican or Democratic candidate for Speaker.
If I - as a Republican - were offered a serious committee post in return for voting for Nancy Pelosi (or whomever the Dems put up) for Speaker, I might consider it but I wouldn't, under any circumstances, announce it.
It is much more likely I would say something like:
Courageous acts of political heroism are most often exhibited by those who have announced their retirement.
Both sides may come to the floor on January 3 with a list of people who they believe will switch parties to put them in control of the House. Both sides will be dealing with Members who have - how to put this as gently as possible? - lied.
Clerk of the House will conduct the vote for Speaker which is an open vote - that is, each Member declares his or her choice.
That choice need not be either of the candidates nominated by the Republicans or Democrats. Any Member can vote for any citizen - Member of Congress or not. Indeed a Member need not vote for any candidate at all.
A Speaker must receive the majority of votes cast - not 218 votes, so it is likely a Speaker will be chosen on the first ballot.
The vote for Speaker might be the best political theater since Jimmy Stewart read from the phone book and C-SPAN might receive the highest ratings of the day.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: The Wikipedia entry for how the Speaker is elected - including some interesting historical elections; the definition of the word pariah, a Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day.