Today's Thing That Will Blow Up Immigration Reform: The Hastert Rule

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 18 2013 2:29 PM

Today's Thing That Will Blow Up Immigration Reform: The Hastert Rule

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SpeakerHouse John Boehner, R-Ohio, meets with members of the press to answer questions at the U.S. Capitol on June 12, 2013.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

File this under "obvious things we're going to choose to freak out over." At the weekly House GOP leadership presser, John Boehner waved off the idea that the Democrats could join a rump of Republicans and pass an immigration bill in the House—which is what's going to happen in the Senate. House conservatives, most prominently Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, had been calling for the "Hastert Rule" to be instituted by diktat, meaning that nothing lacking a "majority of the majority" would get a vote in the House. (This would have killed three bills so far this year, starting with the fiscal cliff deal.)

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Boehner assured them that they need not worry. "I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have a majority support of Republicans," he said.

Reporters ran to Republican deal-makers to see what they made of this. Surprise! They weren't sweating it.

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"If we get a bill between 60 and 61 votes it has a very dim outlook," said Sen. Lindsey Graham. "It depends on what Hoeven and Corker and Portman and Hatch do," he said, referring to amendments written to win Republicans.

"What Republicans are asking for in both the House and Senate are what the American people are asking for," said Sen. Marco Rubio, whose regimen of TV and radio interviews has made him a taut talking point machine. "They're willing to do immigration reform but only if there isn't another wave of illegal immigration in the future."

He wouldn't dictate to the House. "We need to focus on the Senate process. The House has its own process and its own position. If we get a strong vote here, the odds are better of getting something through the House, and that's something everybody's been saying since the beginning. I don't know anyone around here who doesn't acknowledge that. The idea that the House is just going to take up and pass something we pass out of here, that's never been how it works."

It's a debate that was supposed to come later than this. Any immigration bill is going to be written in conference committee. It's relatively easy for the Senate to pass a Democrat-led bill; it's possible for the House to pass one written to please Republicans, one perhaps missing a pathway to citizenship altogether.

"Part of the Senate bill's problem is that it creates a new pathway, and it's expedited," said Sen. Rand Paul. "I think we get rid of all of the problems if we get rid of the pathway, no new visa status, you just give people work visas and let 'em get in line."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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