Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hastert Rule Dead?

It's a good thing the the US House passed Hurricane Sandy relief funding last night. And it's a bad thing that Iowans Tom Latham and Steve King voted no, which may haunt us next time the flood waters rise.

But mostly to me it's an interesting thing the way it passed.

Previous Republican-run Houses had operated on what's been dubbed "the Hastert rule," named after puppet speaker Dennis Hastert (de facto speaker Tom DeLay was really running the show). The DeLay era House only moved legislation when it had "a majority of the majority" i.e. support from over half of the Republican caucus.

It was a sharp departure from past congressional practice. Through the long decades of uninterrupted Democratic control, the decades of Rayburn and O'Neill, legislation often passed with a coalition of Republicans and conservaDems, because those speakers saw themselves as Speakers Of The House, not majority leaders with an extra star on their shoulders.

We saw an abandonment of the Hastert Rule on the fiscal cliff vote on New Year's Day, but that looked like a one time thing.

Sure, self-interest was involved this time. The GOP votes (roll call one and two) came mainly from the districts affected. And it's self-interest on Boehner's part, too. He knows the House Republican brand is damaged, and he's trying to limit the self-inflicted damage.

Maybe it's just to escape blame - and it's unfair if he does- but it's a start.

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