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Time to Retire the “Hastert Rule” and Return to Order

With Paul Ryan (R-WI) stepping up to the plate to replace John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House of Representatives, now is the time for a serious discussion about how he has the opportunity to return some legislative order to the House.

Former longtime Representative (and current Project On Government Oversight board member) Mickey Edwards (R-OK) penned an op-ed for The New York Times last week that broke down the problem with the current House rules structure beautifully.

And yet when House rules are designed to effectively shut the representatives of millions of citizens out of the decision-making process, as Ryan and his fellow Republicans propose to do by following the Hastert rule, it is American democracy itself that suffers.

The "Hastert rule" that Edwards is referring to is defined as a rule to limit the power of the minority party in the House of Representatives. It simply means that the Speaker will not bring legislation to the floor for a vote unless a majority of the majority party supports it. As Edwards rightfully points out, this rule coupled with the "closed rules" that prohibit amendments to legislation almost completely shuts the minority party out of the legislative process in the House.

POGO has pointed out the need for reforming the rules of House oversight of national security issues before, but the problem far exceeds national security. The current gridlock in Congress impedes the ability of the legislative branch to conduct proper oversight and make sure the entire government is running effectively. Concentrating so much power not just in one party but in a few members of that party does a great disservice to the tens of millions of citizens who don’t agree with those few members.

Uniting the Republican Party, Ryan’s self-stated mission for serving as the Speaker, should not come at the cost of shutting out the members elected by 188 Congressional districts. After three decades of partisanship, it is time to return to a working order in the House that fosters genuine compromise and legislating.