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Wonkology: Majority of the Majority

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July 3, 2013

Noun - A practice of House Republicans that, while not a part of the House Rules, is often exercised by Republican Speakers to bring legislation to the House floor for a vote only when there is majority support from the Republican conference. Also known as "The Hastert Rule."

How does this work?

In the 113th Congress, exercising the Hastert Rule requires the support of at least 118 (of the 234) Republican Representatives. In effect, the practice limits the path to a vote on the House floor for any bill, whether sponsored by a Republican or Democrat, unless a majority of the Republican conference backs the legislation.

What's a Hastert?

The practice is named for former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL, 1999-2007), who said his job was "to please the majority of the majority." Newt Gingrich (R-GA, 1995-1999) also used the practice during his tenure as Speaker.

Why is this important today?

Speaker Boehner (R-OH) has generally followed his two GOP predecessors in their use of the Hastert Rule, with two notable exceptions in recent months. The Speaker ignored the Hastert Rule in order to pass the Fiscal Cliff legislation and the Hurricane Sandy Emergency Appropriations earlier this year, relying on significant support from the Democratic conference to clear the House. Boehner's adherence to the concept of a "majority of the majority" is particularly significant as the House begins to tackle immigration reform. Boehner says he intends to wield the Hastert Rule to ensure any immigration bill headed to the floor already enjoys a "strong Republican majority." But some have predicted that to cobble together the 218 votes needed to pass immigration reform, the Speaker may forgo the practice, potentially to the detriment of his Speakership.