A quick note on the Hastert rule

Ezra Klein has an interesting piece on the Hastert rule. I wasn’t aware of it, so here’s his brief summary.

“The Hastert rule isn’t an official rule of the House. It refers to former speaker Dennis Hastert’s practice of bringing bills to the floor only if a majority of the Republican Party — his party — supported them.  It means a bill that has 125 Democrats’ support but only 100 Republicans’ support never comes to the floor, even though it would pass easily if it did.

Speaker John Boehner has typically followed the Hastert rule.”

The entire piece is worth reading, but what particularly caught my eye was this quote by Hastert himself:

“but when you start making deals, when you have to get Democrats to pass the legislation, you are not in power anymore.”

This seems painfully obvious, but shouldn’t the marker be what you can accomplish without those compromises? A lot of news has been made recently about how completely dysfunctional DC has become and how much effort has to be made just to keep the light on, to prevent imminent disasters intentionally created by Congress. I would suggest that this is exactly why.

For Hastert’s attitude to be reasonable Republicans would need to be able to pass meaningful legislation without Democratic support. They cannot. Republicans are not in power right now. But ,just as in economics, they refuse the evidence and demand to have their way. The result is a breakdown of governance and a lot of wasted time and money, and a lot of unnecessary suffering.


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