|Former Speaker Dennis Hastert|
The so-called Hastert Rule is an informal rule that House Republicans have where the speaker will not bring up something for a floor vote unless it is supported by a majority of the majority. To my knowledge, House Democrats do not have a similar rule.
Today, Boehner's violations of the Hastert rule have angered conservatives who see themselves as the ones marginalized by his ability to get around their demands. Under pressure, Boehner has repeatedly reassured them that he won't break the rule again when it comes to immigration reform. Something resembling the bill that has passed the Senate would likely pass the House if it came to a floor vote, with a majority of Democrats and a minority of Republicans in support. But Boehner has made clear he won't allow that to happen.
Back when the Hastert rule first became a thing, a Hastert spokesman named John Feehery defended it to the Washington Post. "If you pass major bills without the majority of the majority, then you tend not to be a long-term speaker," Feehery said, adding, "I think [Hastert] was prudent to listen to his members."
That's what the Hastert rule is really about, Feehery, now a lobbyist and consultant, told me recently -- political survival. It's just common sense: The speaker is elected by a majority vote of his caucus; if he does things a majority of his caucus doesn't like, they can vote him out.Feehery actually wrote the speech in which Hastert laid out the rule that bears his name. He coined the catchy phrase "majority of the majority." And now he thinks Boehner ought to ditch the Hastert rule.
Feehery outlined his thinking in a blog post in January. In a recent interview, he elaborated: Given the current "ungovernable" state of the House GOP caucus, he told me, Boehner must balance the risk to his own standing with the "larger reputational risk" to the Republican Party of things like, say, blocking the Violence Against Women Act -- which would have happened had Boehner not violated the Hastert rule to get it through with the votes of just 38 percent of his members.
Any time a Republican House member talks about majority rule and democracy, they should have the Hastert Rule thrown in their face. It seems that when the GOP is in power in the House of Representatives, they forget it is the people's House and not the GOP's House. If a piece of legislation has the support of a majority of all the duly elected members of the House, it should come up for a vote. Otherwise, it appears that the House has its own version of the Senate's filibuster, and both are destructive abuses of power that demonstrate how against democracy the GOP - in actuality - is.