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 »
WORDS AND PICTURES
White House Looks Back on bin Laden Mission
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
NO BATTLE OVER SEATTLE
SCOTUS Won’t Hear Appeal of Minimum-Wage Law
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a sweeping constitutional challenge to Seattle’s minimum wage law, in what could have been a test case for future legal attacks on similar measures across the country. In a one-line order, the justices declined to hear a case by the International Franchise Association and a group of Seattle franchisees, which had said in court papers that the city’s gradual wage increase to $15 discriminates against them in a way that violates the Constitution’s commerce clause."

Source:
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Sanders Looks to Right the Ship in Indiana
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

Hillary Clinton may have the Democratic nomination sewn up, but Bernie Sanders apparently isn't buying it. Buoyed by a poll showing them in a "virtual tie," Sanders is "holding three rallies on the final day before the state primary and hoping to pull off a win after a tough week of election losses and campaign layoffs." 

Source:
CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION IN JUNE
DC to Release Draft Constitution as Part of Statehood Push
8 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"The New Columbia Statehood Commission—composed of five District leaders including Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and D.C.'s congressional delegation—voted today to publicly release a draft of a new constitution for an eventual state next Friday, at the Lincoln Cottage." It's the first step in a statehood push this year that will include a constitutional convention in June and a referendum in November.

Source:
ALZHEIMER’S OUTCRY
Will Ferrell Bails on Reagan Movie
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

Amid outcry by President Reagan's children, actor Will Ferrell has pulled out of a movie that makes light of Reagan's Alzheimer's disease. A spokesperson for Ferrell said, “The ‘Reagan’ script is one of a number of scripts that had been submitted to Will Ferrell which he had considered. While it is by no means an ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project."

Source:
×