Political Animal


January 01, 2013 7:13 PM Finessing the Hastert Rule

By Ed Kilgore

In a typically odd maneuver, John Boenher is polling House Republicans to see if he can find 218 votes for a package of spending-cut amendments to the Senate-passed tax bill. Either way, the bill will go before the House for a vote tonight or tomorrow.

Nobody seems to know what’s in the spending-cut package, but Dave Weigel tweets it will add up to $328 billion. Senate leaders have made it clear they won’t hold a vote on an amended bill before the Congress ends on Thursday.

What seems to going on is that Boehner is trying to finesse the “Hastert Rule,” the informal dictum that GOP leaders won’t bring a bill to the floor unless it has a majority in the House Conference. But he also knows there will likely be zero Democratic votes for an amended bill. So he gives his members a chance to implicitly vote against an unamended bill, then if the amendment falls short of 218 votes in the Conference, he can keep his earlier promise to hold an up-or-down vote on the Senate-passed bill and perhaps enacts it with a majority of Democratic votes. If enough Democrats vote against it to combine with Republican holdouts to kill it, he can shrug and blame Pelosi and Hoyer.

So no telling what’s going to happen. I’ll report later if there are definitive developments tonight, but otherwise: see you tomorrow.

In the meantime, I will note Georgia beat Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl 45-31. Woof.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Josef K on January 01, 2013 7:52 PM:

    Is it wrong for me to want the Speaker to succeed on the first try? This deal seems so lousy that going off the fiscal curb doesn't sound nearly as scary.

  • exlibra on January 01, 2013 7:52 PM:

    NYTimes via Reuters is saying the same thing as Weigel:
    In plain English (at least as far as I understand it), we'll be starting over once the new -- a good deal "bluer" -- Congress (House and Senate) is sworn in on Thursday. The side effects (again, as far as I understand the situation) are: 1) The expiration of the Bush tax breaks will have had longer to solidify (that is, will be harder to "repeal and replace", to use GOP's fav phrase), and 2) Boner is a goner as Speaker, having been stabbed by shards of Cantor's spectacles.

  • Blue Girl on January 01, 2013 8:33 PM:

    Teagan Goddard is saying the bill the Senate passed earlier will come to the floor in about an hour and it is expected to pass. I presume that Democrats will support it and Boehner is done as Speaker.


  • Josef K on January 01, 2013 8:53 PM:

    So what the hell was this all in aid of? I'm half suspecting the President actually planned for the House GOP to pull the plug on this deal, precisely because they deliberately kept the Speaker out of the room during negotiations.

    But then again, who figured a politico like the Speaker would pull something like this, with the state his caucus is in today?

    My personal preference would be for the House to pass their own amended bill, thereby closing the door for this 'deal' and forcing a re-set for after the 3rd.

  • pol on January 01, 2013 9:11 PM:

    As the wife of a Georgia Tech graduate, I have to say that we don't usually pull for UGA, Ed. But what the heck... Congratulations! Great game.

  • Kathryn on January 01, 2013 9:15 PM:

    My impression was the Speaker (in name only) had washed his hands of any attempt to solve the fiscal cliff, curb, whatever, more than he was kept out of the negotiations. The term too clever by half seems to describe John Boehner and a shrug is all he's got.

  • Daddy Love on January 01, 2013 9:24 PM:

    Honestly, huh?

    BTW, no way the GOP House passes this. Which is fine.

  • Peter C on January 01, 2013 9:30 PM:

    While I'm glad that unemployment insurance will not expire for millions of the hardest hit of this awful recession, I'm just sick at the thought that in two months we'll have another stupid debt-limit fight again. Again, Obama will not let the Republicans parade their mean-spiritedness and gives away his bargaining power instead. Perhaps they bumble themselves into unpopularity with this display of incompetence, but we still perpetuate the idea that their debt-obsession is legitimate and heartfelt. It is neither. They don't care about the national debt; they want to decimate Social Security and Medicare. The National debt is not an immediate problem; the problem is the recession and devastating unemployment. This deal solves problems and hopefully avoids a recession but leaves in place the dominant policy misconception. We're still stuck with our stupid, and that bodes ill for the future.

  • Ron Byers on January 01, 2013 10:32 PM:

    Peter C,

    We will be stuck with our stupid until the DNC gets off it's lazy midterm ass and works like crazy to hold the Senate and take back the house.

    That said, we really, really need to work on cutting defense while stimulating the economy. We also need a completely new tax plan, but that won't happen until we run the Tea Party Republicans out of Washington. Otherwise, we don't have a chance to be great again.

  • Josef K on January 01, 2013 11:17 PM:

    Okay, the House passed the Senate bill. The deal goes forward.

    Now what, other than waiting for the GOP to crash the economy via the debt ceiling?

  • Memekiller on January 01, 2013 11:58 PM:

    This is significant in that there is now a precedent for marginalizing the Tea Party to get stuff done in Washington.

    Also, this clearly shows me that any Democrat who does not vote for REAL filibuster reform is essentially filibustering the next two to four years, and will own the gridlock just as much as McConnell.

  • ugh on January 02, 2013 7:03 AM:

    The real issue nobody seems to be talking about is that this deal only pushes back the sequester for 2 months. It doesn't really matter whether the next round of negotiations is over the debt limit or the sequester--there will be another round of negotiations in two months....and Obama just gave away his best leverage with the taxes. I'm not optimistic that the next round will go very well.

  • zandru on January 02, 2013 10:04 AM:

    "Hasturt rule"

    I had thought that the Hasturt rule was that no bill could be brought to the floor if it couldn't pass with Republican votes only. Not "a majority of Republicans."


  • Redleg on January 02, 2013 11:52 PM:

    The Georgia players should be forced to submit to a test for performance enhancing drugs. Just kidding.

    A sad Nebraska grad.