Hastert on Hastert rule: It’s ‘a misnomer’

October 3, 2013
Former House speakers Jim Wright, Thomas Foley and Newt Gingrich (l-r) get together with present House speaker Dennis Hastert to sign the speaker guest registry. The speakers spent the day in conferences on the Hill, hosted by the Congressonal Research Service. (Andrea Bruce Woodall/TWP)
Former House speakers Jim Wright, Thomas Foley and Newt Gingrich (l-r) get together with former House speaker Dennis Hastert to sign the speaker guest registry. The speakers spent the day in conferences on the Hill, hosted by the Congressonal Research Service. (Andrea Bruce Woodall/TWP)

While everyone credits House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) with following the “Hastert Rule” by refusing to bring up legislation that isn’t supported by the majority of the GOP, the man for whom the rule got his name says the very term is "a misnomer."

“Lookit, the Hastert rule didn’t exist,” former House speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said in an interview Thursday. “What happened is you lined up 218 votes.”

The idea gained traction after Hastert made an offhand comment during a 2006 press conference on an immigration bill, when he was asked by a reporter if he would consider moving the legislation with Democratic support. Hastert replied that that is “something I would not generally do,” adding he preferred to push legislation that enjoyed the backing of a majority of the Republican Conference.

“When I used the term ‘majority of the majority,’ that was in one specific case,” said Hastert, who is now a senior adviser at the law firm Dickstein Shapiro.

Hastert declined to say whether Boehner was right to stick to this approach in the current budget standoff, though he suggested it made no sense to team up with Democrats to advance their agenda at the expense of the GOP’s.  “You don’t go to the other party to move their philosophy. You’ve got to move your party’s philosophy.”

And he faulted both parties for failing to get the needed spending bills done on time, since that sets up a situation where “ people are playing these games to get what they want to get” given the urgent need to keep the government operating. “That’s the real problem,” Hastert said. “If you don’t have regular order, you get jammed up in the end.”

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Sean Sullivan | October 3, 2013