Dennis Hastert: ‘There Is No Hastert Rule’

The former House speaker disowns his eponymous rule.

National Journal
Alex Seitz Wald
Add to Briefcase
Alex Seitz-Wald
Oct. 3, 2013, 6:10 a.m.

Former House Speak­er Den­nis Hastert says the fam­ous — or in­fam­ous — rule that bears his name doesn’t ac­tu­ally ex­ist. “There really wasn’t a ‘Hastert Rule,’ ” the longest-serving Re­pub­lic­an speak­er, who is now a lob­by­ist and con­sult­ant, told Na­tion­al Journ­al in a phone in­ter­view Wed­nes­day even­ing.

The Hastert Rule, as it’s be­come known, is more of a self-im­posed stand­ard that says House lead­ers shouldn’t al­low a vote on a bill un­less it has the sup­port of the ma­jor­ity of their own party. The rule has been cited as the reas­on Speak­er John Boehner won’t bring up a clean con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion to re­open the gov­ern­ment, even though it prob­ably has the 218 votes needed to pass, as well as the reas­on Con­gress can’t pass im­mig­ra­tion re­form, new gun-con­trol laws, or much else.

If Boehner were only will­ing to break the Hastert Rule more of­ten, the think­ing goes, the pos­sib­il­it­ies would be end­less. Of course, that’s prob­ably not go­ing to hap­pen, but either way, Hastert says don’t blame him.

“That was a mis­nomer at a press con­fer­ence. One time they asked me about im­mig­ra­tion le­gis­la­tion, why don’t I just use Demo­crat votes? I said, well I’m nev­er go­ing to not have a ma­jor­ity of my own party go along with me. If you do that, then you’re not us­ing your own policy. And [the press] blew that up as the Hastert Rule. The Hastert Rule, really, was: If you don’t have 218 votes, you didn’t bring the bill to the floor,” he ex­plained.

Asked by a sur­prised re­port­er to con­firm that he, Den­nis Hastert, thinks there is no rule named after him, the former speak­er replied: “There is no Hastert Rule, no.”

Still, when asked if Boehner should try to pass a clean CR by break­ing the rule here­to­fore known by Hastert’s name, the former speak­er said his suc­cessor should not. “I would be very care­ful with Speak­er Boehner; I would make sure that he had a ma­jor­ity of his con­fer­ence on board with him,” he said.

In­deed, the “ma­jor­ity of the ma­jor­ity” prin­ciple was in place long be­fore Hastert — he just put a name to it, in­ten­tion­ally or oth­er­wise. In today’s Wash­ing­ton, even Hastert’s former aides think the con­tro­ver­sial rule may need to be made more flex­ible. But Hastert him­self warned Boehner in Janu­ary against break­ing his non-rule too many times. “Here is the prob­lem. Maybe you can do it once, maybe you can do it twice, but when start mak­ing deals when you have to get Demo­crats to pass the le­gis­la­tion, you are not in power any­more,” he told a con­ser­vat­ive ra­dio host in Janu­ary.

For his part, the former speak­er re­frained from cri­ti­ciz­ing Boehner or any­one else in Wash­ing­ton, say­ing in­stead that politi­cians need to do more com­prom­ising.

By way of ex­ample, he told a story about a budget im­passe late in the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion when House and Sen­ate ne­go­ti­at­ors were about $100 bil­lion apart from each oth­er and dead­locked. Clin­ton was on a trip to Africa and out of pock­et, but Hastert was told he would fi­nally get a chance to speak with the pres­id­ent, who was in Tur­key, the next morn­ing at 10:00 loc­al time. That made it 2 a.m. in Wash­ing­ton. So Hastert, from his of­fice in the Cap­it­ol, dialed the White House switch­board and was patched through to Clin­ton, sit­ting in the back of a lim­ousine in Ank­ara, 10,000 miles away.

The pres­id­ent asked what Hastert wanted (and here, the former speak­er does his best Clin­ton im­pres­sion). Hastert told him a 1 per­cent across-the-board hair­cut. Clin­ton said that’s too much and offered 0.25 per­cent in­stead. Hastert coun­ter­offered and so on, un­til they settled on .86 per­cent, and that was that. “The mor­al of the story is: We sat down — well, not ac­tu­ally, he was so far away — and we got the job done,” Hastert says.

What We're Following See More »
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES
Christopher Wray Approved as New FBI Director
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
ALPHABAY SOLD DRUG, OTHER ILLICIT GOODS
DOJ Announces Dark Web Marketplace Take Down
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Justice Department on Thursday announced it had shuttered an illicit Internet marketplace for drugs, firearms and fake documents in what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said was the 'largest dark Web takedown in world history. Known as AlphaBay, the marketplace on the dark Web was where users whose identities were masked could engage in substantial buying and selling of illicit goods."

Source:
Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."

Source:
HE WAS 92
Former Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) Dies
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"A native of Beach City, Regula served in the U.S. Navy. He was a private-practice lawyer, teacher and school principal who served on the Ohio Board of Education and in the Ohio House and state Senate before he won election to Congress for the first time in 1972 — the first of 18 straight victories before deciding not to seek re-election in 2008."

Source:
TO ESTABLISH PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COUNCIL ON INFRASTRUCTURE
Trump Issues Executive Order
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

President Trump issued an executive order to establish a presidential advisory council on infrastructure to advance projects and help the American people. The council will be composed of 15 members and their mission is to study infrastructure projects and make recommendations to the president. It will terminate December 31, 2018, unless the president extends it.

×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login