When (If?) Democrats Regain The Senate, We Need To Adopt An Inverse Hastert Rule

For those who have more important things to remember, the Hastert Rule–named after former Republican House Speaker and convicted child rapist (yes, really), Dennis Hastert–is a Republican political strategy (it’s not a House rule of any kind) under which the House, when controlled by Republicans, will never bring a bill to the floor if the majority of the Republican caucus does not approve of it. In other words, there would never be a bill with majority Democratic support and minority Republican support.

Events of the, well, last twenty or so years make it clear that the Democrats need an ‘inverse Hastert Rule’, for lack of a better phrase. As the recent DACA debacle shows, not to mention the healthcare fight over the ACA, Democrats let a small minority of conservative Democrats drive the show. During the ACA fight, even when there were sixty Senate Democrats, Democrats needed every single Democrat to prevent a Republican filibuster: Senate rules, real ones, require a cloture vote of sixty Senators to allow a ‘real’ vote on any legislation. That meant people like Ben Nelson and other conservative Democrats had a de facto veto power.

So what would an ‘inverse Hastert Rule’ look like? Well, rather than doing away with the filibuster (which should be done away with), it lowers the number of senators needed to move past cloture to ninety percent of the Democratic caucus–in 2009, that would have been 55 senators. There’s nothing sacred about the sixty votes needed (it was lowered from 67 previously). This way, if ninety percent of the Democratic caucus want to bring a bill to the floor, a few isolated backbenchers, who are unrepresentative of the party, can’t stop it.

Because right now, the perpetual Democratic strategy of demobilizing the Democratic rank-and-file is ongoing. Consider Dem. Senator John Tester (boldface mine):

Montana Sen. Jon Tester didn’t have any specific ideas in mind, but offered some principles the party should look at. “It wouldn’t increase the debt on our kids by a trillion-four, and the middle-class tax breaks — what we have would be permanent,” he said.

He was, however, fairly pessimistic about any changes happening in the near future. “There are a lot of things that could be changed in that, but I don’t see any effort to do any of those things,” he conceded. “I think we’ve got what we’ve got for the next 30 years.”

So, thirty more years of stagnation? This is part of a larger problem within the Democratic Party–many Democrats can’t afford decades more of stalling out. So make it easier to marginalize those who are giving up.

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