Finessing the Hastert Rule

In a typically odd maneuver, John Boenher is polling House Republicans to see if he can find 218 votes for a package of spending-cut amendments to the Senate-passed tax bill. Either way, the bill will go before the House for a vote tonight or tomorrow.

Nobody seems to know what’s in the spending-cut package, but Dave Weigel tweets it will add up to $328 billion. Senate leaders have made it clear they won’t hold a vote on an amended bill before the Congress ends on Thursday.

What seems to going on is that Boehner is trying to finesse the “Hastert Rule,” the informal dictum that GOP leaders won’t bring a bill to the floor unless it has a majority in the House Conference. But he also knows there will likely be zero Democratic votes for an amended bill. So he gives his members a chance to implicitly vote against an unamended bill, then if the amendment falls short of 218 votes in the Conference, he can keep his earlier promise to hold an up-or-down vote on the Senate-passed bill and perhaps enacts it with a majority of Democratic votes. If enough Democrats vote against it to combine with Republican holdouts to kill it, he can shrug and blame Pelosi and Hoyer.

So no telling what’s going to happen. I’ll report later if there are definitive developments tonight, but otherwise: see you tomorrow.

In the meantime, I will note Georgia beat Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl 45-31. Woof.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.