Former Hastert Spox: Abandon Hastert Rule

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House Republicans are huddling right now to strategize and soul search at their annual retreat, in Williamsburg, VA. Presumably over the next two days they’ll settle upon a strategy for confronting President Obama over the debt limit and the need to fund the government at the end of March.

If you’re wondering where John Boehner comes down on these questions, I think this is a decent clue.

That’s Boehner’s deputy chief of staff David Schnittger promoting an article by former Denny Hastert spokesman John Feehery. Supposedly RTs don’t equal endorsements on Twitter, but Feehery’s advice won’t sit well with House conservatives.

I think John Boehner won’t have much of a choice in these first several months of the 113th Congress. He has to get stuff done. He had to schedule the vote on the tax vote extension. He had to schedule a vote on Sandy relief if he was going to maintain any credibility for the GOP majority. And he will have to extend the debt limit.

None of this is pleasant for the Speaker or for his majority. But my guess is that there are plenty of his colleagues who are more than happy to see all of these things pass and are just as happy to be able to vote against them.

I think the Speaker should give the President his debt limit extension, without any additional spending cuts included. But he should let the Democrats pass it on their own and have enough of his colleagues take a walk or vote present to let it get a majority.

I would recommend that the Speaker also send another debt extension with all kind of spending cuts included, but I am not sure that would pass the House.

The Speaker doesn’t have much room to maneuver. His conference is in no mood to compromise, nor in much of a mood to vote for anything that resembles responsible governance.

But as Speaker of the whole House, he has no choice but to schedule things that keep this country from defaulting on its debts and stay open.

The Hastert rule worked pretty well for Denny Hastert, but for the next couple of years, John Boehner might have to think more like Tip O’Neill if he wants to survive with his reputation intact.

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