The Record (New Jersey)
January 31, 2018
Ryan, DACA, The Hastert Rule & Immigrants
The vast majority of American citizens believe “Dreamers” should not be deported for being “Dreamers,” and should be given a pathway towards citizenship.
Most of us also understand that it is practically and economically unwise to spend billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars building a wall across our southern border with Mexico, when better technologies and strategies would be far more effective and much less costly.
The majority of senators and House members in Congress agree with this.
Even President Trump, over the course of his 2016 presidential campaign and during his time in office, has said similar things. He even pledged, on Jan. 9, to sign any bipartisan deal the Congress works out, “[even] if they come to me with things I’m not in love with.”
If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lives up to his Jan. 22 public promise to the American people and the U.S. Senate and allows a vote on a bipartisan DACA (Deferred action For Childhood Arrivals) and border security bill, it appears probable the Senate will pass it. Most of the 49 Democratic senators will vote for it and some of the 51 Senate Republicans will also – to make up the 60 vote supermajority required.
But beyond whether McConnell will be true to his word, there are remaining problems with the House, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Hastert Rule.
In 2013, 2014 and 2015, nearly every one of the Republicans in the House voted to defund the Obama executive order creating DACA. Thus, it is not clear whether a majority of the 248 House Republicans would vote in favor of a bipartisan Senate bill reinstating DACA now, even if it included strong border security provisions. There is a well-founded belief that House Republicans would certainly not be able to muster the 218 votes needed to pass it.
What’s more, even though most of the 192 House Democrats would vote in favor of the bill, thus providing the balance of the 218 votes, Ryan may not call it for a vote. The reason is his promise to his members to abide by the Hastert Rule.
The Hastert Rule is an informal practice first publicly endorsed by then-Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert in 1999. It requires that a Republican House speaker never permit a vote on any bill in the House that does not have “a majority of the Republican majority” supporting it – even if there are enough Democrats who would provide the rest of the 218 votes necessary for passage.
It is true that neither Hastert nor any of his successor Republican House speakers always followed that rule, but they did so nearly always. Hastert ignored it only 12 times in eight years; Republican Speaker John Boehner did so only five times in four years. But Ryan, who succeeded Boehner as speaker in October 2015, has yet to violate the Hastert Rule.
The question is: Will Ryan, if presented with a bipartisan Senate bill on DACA and border security, let the House vote on that bill if the majority of his Republican House members don’t support it and he’ll need to rely on the Democratic House members to pass it?
Most Americans identify to some degree with new immigrants, legal or illegal, because we know that all of us have the blood of immigrants flowing through our bodies and minds. A very strong argument can be made that the constant inflow of immigrants – who have taken to heart our Founders’ credo espousing the virtues of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, concerns about the general welfare, tolerance of opposing views and traditions, a country ruled by laws and not just by the most powerful, and the necessity for unity –has made us stronger, fairer, more resilient and wiser.
There is also the pragmatic view that in a world of diminishing birth rates, nations like ours also have a profound interest in new generations of citizens to carry the charge of liberty, justice, economic vitality, courageous entrepreneurship and creative approaches to fulfill the Founders’ American Dream.
Acknowledging the value of immigrants for the United States, as the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board recently said, nonetheless requires the president and Congress to fulfill two responsibilities: “to regulate immigration in a way that advances our country’s interests, and to adopt smart and fair policies to resolve the status of the 11millionpeople already here in the shadows.”
To begin our reforms in this regard, Americans of both parties must make sure they let Ryan know that most U.S. citizens would approve of the Senate’s bipartisan DACA and border security bill – and that they would take great objection to Ryan choosing to invoke a non-binding Republican policy to prevent that bill from being voted on in the House.
Americans need to write and call Paul Ryan.
Steven R. Rothman is a Democrat of Englewood and a former U.S. congressman who represented New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District from 1997 to 2013.