Immigration Reform and the Hastert Rule

What is "the majority -of-the-majority"?

Here, again, an essential drama is unfolding in Washington. As the Senate commences consideration of immigration legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, the Conservative vision is again blurred. A rebellious faction of Republicans backed by Conservative groups are pushing to change house GOP rules to ban the party leadership from bringing legislation to the house floor that does not have ‘majority of the majority support.’ Yes! Their realism of life is now outweighed by a political credence they call the ‘Hastert Rule.’

Much anxiety abounds for the ‘Hastert Rule’ will describe what will happen on the house floor when immigration reform legislation make its way through the Senate with a vote slated before July 4.

Although the realities of immigration reform have never fit in totally with the golden dreams of Republicans, the codification of a ‘Hastert Rule’ shows how far they will go at the expense of their own party’s leadership to fuel fear and even divide people to try and stop it.

However, as this dogged welt occupies the thought of everyone, it must also be remembered that there is nothing called a ‘Hastert Rule’ but just another hyperbolic partisan metaphor framed by Denny Hastert (R-Ill) that “require that the speaker of the house does not bring a bill to the floor of the House of Representatives unless the said bill enjoys the support of ‘the majority of the majority.’” The rule effectively limits the power of the minority party to bring up bills for vote.

But according to many commentators, ‘the majority of the majority’ can also lead to breakdown of the legislative process and radicalization of the minority party.

GOP strategist John Feehery contends that the ‘Hastert Rule” is just situational advice and never a hard and fast rule which Hastert himself broke during his tenure as house speaker. In fact, the rule has been broken many times in the past with the passage of the aid package after hurricane Sandy, the reauthorization of the violence against women act, the acquisition of historic sites and the ‘fiscal cliff’, yet Republicans are determined to codify the rule in an effort to delay immigration proceedings.

Nonetheless, the ‘Hastert Rule’ is no rule to play with especially where a sensitive issue like immigration is concerned. Requiring a majority of a majority not only put house speaker Boehner between a rock and a hard place but his unwillingness to guarantee that he’ll follow the rule speculate anarchy in the house. His further reiteration that ‘he will adhere to the ‘Hastert Rule’ on immigration reform and not hold a vote without the support of a majority of the caucus still refuses to echo a unified voice among his party supporters.

Californian Republican Dana Rohrabacher says that “Boehner should be booted from his leadership role if he allows the Senate version to come to the house for a vote.” He considers it betrayal of Republican members and Republicans throughout the country.

In truth, the most contentious part of immigration reform at this late stage of the game should not be about a ‘Hastert Rule’ but the legalization of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the US. Predominant research indicates that immigration, both legal and illegal, is an overall net benefit for the macro economy. Moreover, legalization will increase economic opportunities for unauthorized immigrants who live in poverty.

But the Republicans reason is not rooted in logic.

Instead of showing determination to win the election in 2016, Republicans are shamefully again proving themselves to be nothing but obstructionist. The house is their only stronghold to power in Washington and they intend to use it regardless of the outcome, but they seem to forget that they are by no means in control of the legislative process more than Democrats do.

It is true that legalization will not lift all immigrants out of poverty but it will offer them opportunities to earn more and pursue further education so that their families are not committed to life in the shadows.

It now seems that the fate of immigration reform lies directly or indirectly on whether speaker Boehner will be willing to allow passage of reform with Democrat votes rolling a GOP majority. Still one thing is certain — the more than 11 million victims of economic misery are not going to pack their bags and leave simply because “a majority of the majority” doesn’t support the bill. ‘The Hastert Rule’ is not a legal document. It is not a commandment. It is not in the Constitution. Immigration is a badly broken system that must be fixed and codification of the ‘Hastert Rule’ or not, it is time to pass the vote.

Rebecca Theodore is a national security and political op-ed columnist based in Atlanta GA. Her work has appeared in various newsprint throughout the Caribbean, Canada and the US. Follow her on twitter @rebethd Read other articles by Rebecca.