With House Republicans divided over upcoming spending and immigration legislation, GOP lawmakers these days frequently cite the so-called Hastert Rule. The rule is described as a requirement that nothing comes to the floor for a vote without the backing of the majority of the GOP conference, or as some interpret it, without mostly Republican support to pass it.
But former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told the Washington Examiner that the rule named after him has been misinterpreted, and has been broken quite a few times lately.
“What the Hastert Rule really was, is that you didn’t bring a bill to the floor unless you had 218 votes, and you always had a couple of extra votes in your pocket,” said Hastert, who was speaker from 1999 to 2007.
Unlike Hastert, Boehner has allowed bills to fail on the House floor, including legislation to prevent a government shutdown and a massive farm reauthorization bill that fell short by 16 votes.
Hastert and his top deputies held their conference together on even the toughest legislation though a combination of arm-twisting and trade-offs.
But neither Boehner nor his deputies are aggressive arm-twisters, and the leadership lost a major tool in the negotiating process in 2010 when the House banned funding for special projects, known as earmarks, which lawmakers sought for their home districts.
Hastert, though, controlled the House with only a razor-thin majority of about five votes. Boehner enjoys a 15-vote margin, with 233 Republicans and just 218 needed to pass most legislation.
Worse than violating his namesake rule, Hastert said, is letting bills pass with mostly minority support.
Boehner has passed legislation with mostly Democrats, including the “fiscal cliff” legislation that raised taxes on upper-income households. It passed with 172 Democrats and 85 Republicans.
While not technically violating his namesake rule, Hastert said, letting Democrats pass legislation cedes power to the minority.
“When you use a majority of the other side, you’re not leading, someone else is leading,” Hastert said.