As the Hastert Rule dead in the House of Representatives? That’s the policy, actually begun by Newt Gingrich when he was speaker, that said that no bill will come to the floor past a Republican speaker unless it was approved by a majority of the caucus. The bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security — the clean bill, with no impediments to President Obama’s immigration executive order — passed the House this week (it had already cleared the Senate) with 75 Republican votes. The 167 no votes for the bill all came from Republicans. Speaker John Boehner, who had said he’d never break the rule, has done it four times now, gathering some 30-odd Republican votes to go with the Democrats to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling; reauthorizing the Violence Against Women act, and providing funding for Superstorm Sandy relief.
Democrats were quick to claim victory, but one can only imagine the Speaker, in caucus, telling the conservative wing that it was a win-win for them, because they could vote their conscience, but not shut down the Homeland Security department. And they could blame him. Right after they were finished applauding him for bringing in Benjamin Netanyahu to make his campaign speech, zinging President Obama.
Everyone knows that legislation would flow easily through the House if the Hastert Rule were toast. Then the far right (Democrats would never consent to such a rule, as it actually implies party discipline) would not be able to hold congress hostage and a true majority could hold sway.
Two other national items bear scrutiny. One is the Netanyahu speech. Boehner claims credit for this one. The Israeli prime minister, in the midst of a bruising, tight reelection campaign makes the speech of his life, arguing against making a pact with Iran. His hard line only leaves the status quo…Iran under sanctions and challenged, would continue its nuclear program until the West, presumably more than only Israel, though the Israeli administration would be prepared to drag recalcitrant allies in, would be left with no choice except…attack.
Somehow, we’ve got to believe in diplomacy. And while good diplomats will seek to corner adversaries, they will also leave them a door, a way out. In this case, Iran needs out from under the sanctions, but does not really need a nuclear weapon. A deal is possible. And if it doesn’t work, the screws can still be tightened. Netanyahu should be rejected here, and at home.
Finally, there’s the Supreme Court looking at the Affordable Care Act, which has gotten good reviews everywhere states have let it work. The legal arguments can make your head spin and they depend on interpretations of wordings. But lets face it, it’s really a political argument, with three solid against the law, four in favor, and as usual, Justice Anthony Kennedy sitting in a swing seat. But so is Chief Justice John Roberts, who was the swing in favor of the law the last time it came up. Where he ends up is up in the air.
The right may never stop assaulting this law, mostly because it’s Obama’s signature achievement, and their actions to discredit him by any means have long reached fanatical proportions. The provisions of Obamacare were, after all, a Republican idea back in the 1990s, and earlier. Here’s hoping that the Chief Justice sees his legacy as creating and allowing something that can benefit the people, rather than supporting a vindictive political aim.