Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Hastert Rule hinders reasonable bipartisan behavior in House on shutdown, debt ceiling; NC Rep. Mark Meadows's letter in Aug. started all this

CNN has an interesting account of how the idea of linking “defunding Obamacare” or at least weakening it, and attaching it to bills to fund the government after Oct. 1 (and perhaps to the debt limit in two weeks) got started in August, 2013 after John Boehner had himself said he would move on from such fights.

The congressman is Mark Meadows, from somewhere near Asheville, NC, the 11th District.   (I was there in July.)   The story, dated Oct. 1 has link here. Note the video (not embeddable).  Meadows has been in office only since January 2013.  Meadows got 79 congressmen to sign on to his letter.

Meadows says he is only representing the will of the people in his district.  He doesn’t think that the political consequences of the battle, or the effect on the rest of the country, is his concern.  His  constituents want to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, regardless of any other consequences.  As I pointed out yesterday, this would be like my expecting my congressman to protect Section 230 even if doing so meant not raising the debt ceiling, because my own career depends on it.
Meadows’s own website  explains the letter and links to a PDF of the letter, which includes all 79 signatures.

Why can’t John Boehner simply call together a vote of reasonable budget legislation that can pass with Democrats and more mainstream, moderate Republicans?  There is some discussion of this at “All Voices” here. The explanation refers to the “Hastert Rule”, which says that a speaker cannot bring up to a vote a law that doesn’t have a majority of his own caucus.  It is not clear that it is legally binding, since it is often violated.  It’s not even clear that the Tea Party claims a majority of the GOP caucus (this had to do with the supposed “17 votes” earlier this week).  Here’s an explanation, link.   Wikipedia explains it here  and it’s use seems dangerous.  This Rule would make fodder for a good test question on a high school government test.  (Warning, I used to substitute teach! Kids -- know this one! Be able to explain why this rule really matters! Connect the dots!)
I think the media needs to talk a lot more about the Hastert Rule, quickly. 

Update: Oct. 3, 2013

Ezra Klein talks about the Hastert Rule today in the Post, here. Klein says that the Tea Party is playing "CalivinBall" and has invented a "Suiper Hastert Rule" which the media has accepted on the fly but which is not even proper House procedure.  Obama knows this.  But Obama should explain this explicitly to the public.  

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