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 »
IN ADDITION TO DNC AND DCCC
Clinton Campaign Also Hacked
7 hours ago
THE LATEST
1.5 MILLION MORE TUNED IN FOR TRUMP
More People Watched Trump’s Acceptance Speech
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Hillary Clinton hopes that television ratings for the candidates' acceptance speeches at their respective conventions aren't foreshadowing of similar results at the polls in November. Preliminary results from the networks and cable channels show that 34.9 million people tuned in for Donald Trump's acceptance speech while 33.3 million watched Clinton accept the Democratic nomination. However, it is still possible that the numbers are closer than these ratings suggest: the numbers don't include ratings from PBS or CSPAN, which tend to attract more Democratic viewers.

Source:
AFFECTS NOVEMBER ELECTIONS
North Carolina Voter ID Law Struck Down
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned North Carolina's 2013 voter ID law, saying it was passed with “discriminatory intent." The decision sends the case back to the district judge who initially dismissed challenges to the law. "The ruling prohibits North Carolina from requiring photo identification from voters in future elections, including the November 2016 general election, restores a week of early voting and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and ensures that same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting will remain in effect."

Source:
NORTH DAKOTA TO ILLINOIS
Massive Oil Pipeline Approved for the Midwest
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS

An oil pipeline almost as long as the much-debated Keystone XL has won final approval to transport crude from North Dakota to Illinois, traveling through South Dakota and Iowa along the way. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the final blessing to the Dakota Access pipeline on Tuesday. Developers now have the last set of permits they need to build through the small portion of federal land the line crosses, which includes major waterways like the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers. The so-called Bakken pipeline goes through mostly state and private land."

Source:
×