healthcare — April 19, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Why we need to start talking about Dennis Hastert’s legacy


Republicans want to forget the man who willed them their path to obstruction


Last week, the longest serving Republican Speaker of the House in American history admitted to being a child molester — unless you believe Dennis Hastert’s lawyer’s claim that a “groin rub” is not abuse.

This event slipped into the torrent of history with almost no consideration or even the usual outrage that accompanies the obvious revelation that many of our most moralistic politicians lack basic morals.

We also rarely hear about the rule that Hastert made famous as Speaker — a gentleman’s agreement that the leadership would not bring forward any bill that doesn’t have majority support in the House Republican caucus. It was a standard Newt Gingrich pioneered and Republicans have generally followed since. John Boehner’s growing need to violate it to keep the government operational was one of the reason’s he decided to pursue mowing his lawn and drinking full-time.

Generally all Speakers have more or less operated with this mindset, but in the last seven years the divisions of the Republican Party have made it so it’s nearly impossible to govern at all — even in the face of escalating crises that require government action.

The Hill’s Lindsey McPherson explains:

Puerto Rico is on the verge of economic collapse, an average of 78 people are dying every day from opioid overdoses, and mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus have been found in 30 states. But Congress has shown no urgency about addressing those issues.

American University professor David Lublin said there are pretty much two ways to pass legislation in the House these days: You get Democrats to agree with a minority Republicans or you get a supermajority of Republicans.

The former is an option Republican leaders try to avoid because they know it will anger their members, who will complain that they gave up too much to the other side. But the latter is difficult too, given the divisions among the GOP conference.

The problem — as Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has explained — isn’t that there aren’t votes to pass these bills. It’s that there are.

And the party’s far right is vetoing everything.

A small group of Republicans from districts so white that they actually DVR golf is holding our legislative process hostage. They call themselves the “Freedom Caucus” and when they stay together there’s no hope of passing anything — unless it cuts taxes, helps polluters or burdens poor women seeking health care.

And they aren’t even a majority of the Republican caucus. Paul Ryan promised to deliver a budget and get the House back to regular order. He’s not even doing as well as Boehner did.

Republicans don’t want to reckon with the crimes that one of their former leaders and no one seems to want to make them. Fine. But let’s at least force them to justify the obstruction that’s hindering us from fighting a disease that the Centers for Disease Control has said can cause severe birth defects.

Is it the Hastert Rule that’s keeping Republicans from fighting Zika? Or are they still inventing new forms of obstruction.