Immigration Reform 2013: What is the Hastert Rule, and Why Will It Sink Immigration Reform?

The Gang of Eight immigration reform bill spearheaded by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was supposed to be dead on arrival in the more conservative House, according to Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and several other conservative members of Congress. There have been rumors of Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) violating the Hastert Rule on the immigration bill, meaning he would bring the bill to the floor without the majority of the House majority being in favor of the legislation. Then, for the first time in the past year we received this assurance from the speaker himself: “For any legislation — including a conference report — to pass the House, it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members.”  I believe there is no majority from Republicans in the House, and the bill will not be brought to the floor. However, I also believe that the House will craft its own legislation that will not be acted upon by the Senate.

According to Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the House is working on its own legislation because the House Republican Party would prefer a "path to legalization," meaning no citizenship, but an opportunity at a green card. This is the proper move for Boehner as he seeks to prevent another attempt at a palace coup by the influx of new conservative members elected in the past two election cycles. The current knee-jerk reaction by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Rubio, and hack pundits to support amnesty makes the party appear to be without principle in an attempt to pander to the Hispanic community. It's also failing to move the needle in making Republican candidates electable in the manner establishment types were hoping for. Looks like another blemish on Karl Rove's record.

With high ranking senators like Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stating, "I believe that by the end of this year, the House will pass the Senate bill," I doubt the Senate will take up any bill that does not include some sort of amnesty for those already in the country illegally. A difference this major is profound to be resolved in a joint conference in which the two houses of Congress work out their differences together. If the House GOP refuses to accept amnesty provisions the first time through, why would they accept them the second time?  

We will end the year with two fundamentally different bills passing the two legislative chambers. Should this not happen — in other words, if the House brings up the Senate bill and Boehner breaks his vow of upholding the Hastert Rule — you can bet that next time the Republicans hold their House majority, a new member will be holding the speaker's gavel.  After all, Speaker Boehner, actions speak louder than words.