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The Return Of The Hastert Rule -- And What It Means For The Rest Of Us

Only Republicans would embrace a rule named after a convicted felon!
The Return Of The Hastert Rule -- And What It Means For The Rest Of Us
Image from: chicagotribune.com

From Mike Stark over at Daily Kos, what Paul Ryan's embrace of the Hastert rule means:

Let's begin by defining it:

Hastert Rule: An informal rule of the House of Representatives first imposed by Speaker Denny Hastert. The rule holds that the Speaker of the House shall bring no bill to a vote that does not have majority support among members of the majority. In other words, under Republican Speaker Hastert, who was elected Speaker by a GOP majority of the House of Representatives, no bill could be brought to the floor for a vote unless a majority of House Republicans supported the bill.

Under Speaker John Bohener, the Hastert Rule was non-operative.Incoming Speaker Paul Ryan has promised his caucus that the Hastert rule would be reimposed.

That means shit is about to get real.The incredible gerrymander of 2010 has brought about a set of conditions by which the House is filled with the most radical members of the right-wing. Recall that Eric Cantor was not conservative enough to keep his seat. Yes, the Eric Cantor who fully embraced the Tea Party and leveraged it to great effect in 2010. He lost his primary to a member of the so-called "Freedom Caucus" - an 80 member group of extreme conservatives. Don't lose the greater meaning of the Cantor message though. A GOP member needn't be a member of the Freedom Caucus to be fearful of and responsive to her conservative base.

Anyway, so long as they remain "conservative enough," these members of Congress will hold their seats at least through 2022. Call it the magic of gerrymandering. But let me get back to the part about shit getting real...

What this translates to is that, under the Hastert Rule, the most right-wing members of the House have just taken control of the House of Representatives.

Interesting times indeed...You see, the last time the Hastert Rule was enforced, the GOP had the House, Senate and White House. At that time, the pressing priority was to govern, not obstruct or tear down. Sure, their governing style was incredibly disheartening to those of us that followed closely... the lies, corruption and cronyism were at once both sickening and impressive. But the point is that budgets got passed, the government was funded, and we didn't default on our debts.


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This time it's different.

This time we have a Democrat sitting in the White House with a veto pen. Our minority in the Senate is large enough to sustain a filibuster when necessary, and easily large enough to defeat any attempt to override a presidential veto.

So if the majority of the GOP House members are required to be on board to bring a bill to the floor, how do we get a budget that includes funding for Obamacare? or Planned Parenthood? or the EPA's new climate rules?

Remember, the GOP crazy caucus that just took control of the House is accountable to the blood red districts they gerrymandered for themselves back home.

But let's not blame it entirely on the gerrymandering or constituent pressures though. It is worth noting that a leading conservative "intellectual" is Grover Norquist - the guy that doesn't want to eliminate government, but just shrink it until it's small enough to drown in a bathtub.

Truth is, a lot of the conservatives elected to the House - the folks in charge now - will be overjoyed to see the collapse of the federal government. For them, shutting down the federal government is a goal unto itself, rather than a consequence or negotiating strategy.

Yes, shit is about to get really fucking real.

So how does this play out?

Hell, I don't know. I'll point out that it's occurring just as we head into a Presidential election when a lot more eyes than usual will be turned toward Washington. For GOP radicals interested in keeping their seats, they've got some choices... They can grandstand and make the case that government is awful shouldn't be killing babies and selling their body parts and imposing huge regulatory burdens on the jaaahhhb-creators... For some, that'd probably be their safest path, and for many of them, the most natural. Others will vote the same way without all the grand-standing (some gerrymanders offer more safety than others; the more purple the district, the more likely the member kow-tows to his reliable base, but without making news).

But... gov't shut-downs are going to dominate press cycles. The press doesn't like issues, but they love suffering and they love process and they love partisan contests. A government shutdown lets them discuss all the things they love, without having to discuss any of the issues. It allows them to present "both sides". So yes, the shut-down(s) will be in the news as a dominant lead item.

Which means that finally... maybe... the folks on our side that generally do not show up to vote... well, maybe they will notice that we've gone collectively crazy as a nation, at least to the extent that we've empowered so many radicals in the House.

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