Dennis Hastert: ‘There Is No Hastert Rule’

The former House speaker disowns his eponymous rule.

National Journal
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 »
‘PULLING A TRUMP’
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Source:
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
1 days ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
20 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
THE LAST ROUND OF NEW HAMPSHIRE POLLS
Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
×