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Lessons from the Showdown Mess: In the House, 218 Is the Magic Number

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Hastert Rule Likely to Be Discarded Once Again; President Obama Stresses that Immigration Reform is Up Next; House GOP Out of Excuses 

The likely resolution to the current fiscal and debt ceiling impasse has led to the question: what’s next for Congress?  President Obama said yesterday he wants Congress to take action on immigration reform.  So do we.

While the endgame on the shutdown has to play itself out, it is now expected that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will bring the Senate deal to the House floor to pass on a bipartisan basis.  Such an approach will be the fifth occasion just this year that Speaker Boehner has disregarded the Hastert Rule.  This exit strategy is the same one Speaker Boehner could use to pass immigration reform: blow past the so-called Hastert Rule and let the majority that already exists in the House today in favor of immigration reform to express itself.

By the way, is the Hastert Rule really a rule?  Earlier this month, Eleanor Clift of The Daily Beast spoke with former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who said that “The Hastert Rule never really existed.  It’s a non-entity as far as I’m concerned…The real Hastert Rule is 218 [votes]…If we had to work with Democrats, we did.”   Moreover, the Republican Party has a strong incentive to change the subject from the shutdown and prove it can govern responsibly.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

House Republican leaders have hidden behind procedural excuses – the Hastert Rule, the ‘won’t take up Senate bill’ rule, regular order, piecemeal process – to delay moving forward on immigration reform.  But process mumbo jumbo won’t obscure the choice and consequence facing House leadership: they either find a way to work with Democrats to pass immigration reform this Congress or they get blamed for blocking reform, further endangering Republican prospects in 2014 and beyond.  At a time when the GOP’s brand image is plummeting among many demographic groups, including Latino voters, immigration reform is one issue that would actually strengthen the Party’s 2014 and 2016 prospects.

Yesterday, President Obama told Univisión that once the fiscal and debt ceiling negotiations are resolved, “the day after – I’m going to be pushing (Congress) to say, call a vote on immigration reform.”  President Obama also noted, “The only thing right now that’s holding it back is again, Speaker Boehner not willing to call the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives.”

Said Sharry:

Immigration reform with a path to citizenship is an idea whose time has come.  Americans want it, Democrats want it and Republicans need it.  There’s a window of opportunity for floor action in November.  The time is now to get it done.