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The Boehner Rule



“Listen. It was never a rule to begin with.”

That was how U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner responded to a question about violating the so-called “Hastert rule” in order to pass Democrat-supported legislation on guns and the budget.

The rule itself, named after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, states that bills will only be brought to the floor of the House of Representatives if they receive the support of a “majority of the majority.” The problem is this rule has been violated numerous times by Boehner since the GOP took the majority away from Democrats in 2010.

For example, a majority of House Republicans voted against the tax bill that raised taxes on those making $400,000 and above, including many small businesses.

A majority of House Republicans also voted against so-called hurricane “disaster relief” because it was unpaid for and stuffed with billions in unrelated pork.

But both of these bills passed with strong Democratic support.

Boehner went on to assure everyone that “my prerogative — my intention is to always pass bills with strong Republican support.”

He has a point. We should not discount the possibility House leaders could conceivably get a majority of Republicans to go along with legislation on guns and wasteful spending. After all, they did not have too many problems getting the votes for the latest continuing resolution, although they needed Democrats to help.

And a majority of Republicans voted to suspend the debt ceiling until May 19 — but they needed Democrats for that vote, too, in order for it to pass.

Just like the vote on the continuing resolution that came before that. Or when the House increased the debt ceiling in 2011.

In fact, one struggles to find a single vote of significance — legislation that became law — that House Republicans did not need Democrats in order to pass.

All of which indicates there is really no opposition party in Washington, D.C., raising the question of why, exactly, voters should even put Republicans into the majority? So that Fred Upton can have a nicer office?

If the Republican Party does not stand for anything, then there is no reason for it to enjoy a majority – except for personal power and perks. This is why the American people are so sickened at the state of things in Washington. If gun control or some other liberal legislation passes the House, against the wishes of Republican voters who put these representatives into the majority, it will be extremely damaging to the Republican brand. Perhaps irreparably so.

Do Republicans really want to go into the midterms with gun owners angrier at them than at Obama?

Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi, but she knew how to govern – how to keep her caucus together. And to enact an agenda her members agreed with. She was not busy stacking committee chairs with members who disagreed with her party’s platform.

Boehner, on the other hand, in a November interview with Diane Sawayer suggested that what “Republicans need to learn is — how do we speak to all Americans?  You know, not just to people who look like us and act like us, but how do we speak to all Americans?”

We take him at his word. Boehner does not represent Republicans in the House. He represents a majority of the House — including the Democrats he needs to enact his agenda.

It remains an open question if Republicans can keep a majority in the House under those circumstances. Or if there is any reason for them to do so if they’re just going to implement the Democrats’ agenda.

So keep it up, Mr. Speaker. Come Nov. 2014, you may really have something to cry about.

Bill Wilson is president of Americans for Limited Government. Follow him on Twitter at @BillWilsonALG. This column – reprinted with permission – originally appeared on