Every time the House’s Republicans get into a situation like the one they’re in now, where it might take some Democrats to pass something that the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House will accept as a way out of the partial government shutdown, someone invokes “The Hastert Rule.”
Republican Dennis Hastert, the former House speaker from Illinois, says there is no such thing — or, the way he tells the story, it’s more of a practice than a rule.
“There was no Hastert rule,” Hastert said, as he stopped off for coffee in the kitchen of Bloomberg’s Washington bureau. He reiterated this a number of times, to be sure.
The history of it is this, he explained: He he was asked at a press conference in 2005 or 2006 about when he might move an immigration bill, and he told a reporter he didn’t have the votes. The reporter asked why he couldn’t seek some Democratic votes, pointing out that he could muster enough support if he did that.
“I said, `I’m not going to move anything that I don’t have the majority of my own party on board,”’ Hastert said. “That’s common sense.’ ‘
“They dubbed that `the Hastert rule’ and beat me up about it.”
Asked about House Speaker John Boehner’s application of this concept today, Hastert defended the hard political line.
“If you’re going to the other side and getting most of their votes, they’re going to be determining what the policy is,” he said. “So if you want to be the leader and determine what the policy is, you better have the majority of your conference behind you.”
Asked how he thinks the current fight over a stopgap spending plan that has brought most government services to halt will end, Hastert predicted that it will go all the way into the debt-ceiling debate — operative deadline for now, Oct. 17 — and won’t be resolved until then. He allowed that he doesn’t know the Republican strategy — perhaps his party will get some small concession, he said, but it is unlikely to unravel President Barack Obama’s health-care program, and that’s pretty clear.
“It’s awful hard to undo a law, especially when you don’t have a majority in the Senate or the presidency,” Hastert said.
Yet he insisted that Boehner has no choice but to hold the line and impose the old rule. (Or concept, notion, whatever.)
“Boehner has to do what he has to do,” Hastert said. “But my view is that he’s in jeopardy if he does this. There are enough people to the right that if he pushes this thing through with a majority of Democratic votes, there will be a lot of Republicans who feel disenfranchised. If you lose that trust, you can’t lead.”
For his part, Hastert is enjoying retirement, with some 28 followers on Twitter:
True story: I have my own office in Illinois where I get to kick back and do nothing! Whew! http://ow.ly/3yqQb
— Dennis Hastert (@SpeakerHastert) January 5, 2011
Back in the day, I ran this joint. Now I’m just spending my days reading Internet sites and hoping people don’t forget about me. Sigh. I used to be powerful.
Well, previously Congress. · speaker.gov