Ending the Shutdown

It’s very easy to look at the government shutdown and feel an overwhelming sense of anger and despair. I would know. I’ve been feeling that way for almost a week. It can seem like there is no end in sight, and that Congress will never reach a compromise and reopen the government.

But do not despair blog readers (all two of you)! This shutdown could end tomorrow if Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) would allow the House to vote on the clean continuing resolution that the Senate has passed.

But Bella, you say, that’s not possible. The House is controlled by Republicans!

Thankfully, there are some Republicans out there who would vote for the clean continuing resolution to fund the government through November. The Senate Democrats count 21 Republicans who have pledged to vote for the clean CR, and a recent Washington Post blog post counts 20. 195 Democrats have signed a letter to Boehner calling for him to pass a clean CR. If the Democrats can get one or two Republicans on their side (which by some accounts, they have already done) the clean CR would pass the House by a slim majority.

So why hasn’t Boehner even brought this to the floor? Because there is a common practice in politics, known as the Hastert Rule. This says that a speaker can only bring legislation to the floor if a majority of the party in power agrees with it. However, the practice is misnamed, as this is not a hard and fast rule. There is nothing in procedure of the House that says this is a rule that must be followed. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) violated the rule seven times while she was Speaker of the House and Speaker Boehner has passed four bills without the support of the majority party.

If the Hastert Rule isn’t technically a real rule, why does Boehner refuse to bring the clean CR bill to the floor of the House? It could be that he is worried it will pass, and the government will reopen without his party “getting anything” from the shutdown.

Speaker Boehner insists the resolution wouldn’t pass, but on Sunday, Senator Schumer (D-NY) challenged the speaker to put it on the floor Monday or Tuesday and see if it passed. While it does not seem likely that Boehner will put the clean CR up Monday or Tuesday, there is bipartisan support to re-open the government, which means an end to the shutdown isn’t far off.

First Published: October 6, 2013