The rule, which is not really a rule at all, is a procedural gimmick named for Dennis Hastert, the Illinois Republican who was speaker from 1999-2007. It precludes advancing a bill that doesn't include majority Republican support. In other words even if there are 218 bipartisan votes to pass reform, and it appears there are, if there aren't at least 118 Republicans out of the current 234 in favor, and there aren't, the speaker won't allow the measure to come to the floor. This, along with Senate filibuster abuses, is the reason the 112th and 113th congresses have been so dysfunctional.
Essentially Boehner caved to demands from tea party members elected in the 2010 landslide that he impose this Hastert gibberish if he wanted to get the speaker's job. In doing so he sanctioned 60 members representing for the most part rural, white, dinosaur districts containing about 13 percent of the nation's population to grind the country's business to a halt.
The Senate bill passed 68 to 32 with the support of 14 Republicans including some staunch conservatives so it's obviously not some harebrained socialist scheme to giveaway the ranch. It mandates significant new resources and manpower on the border, smartens-up legal immigration procedures and provides an arduous 13-year path to citizenship including fines for undocumented workers many of whom have lived here for years.
It's also favored by about 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans. But that's not enough for the hysterical right, for whom nothing but rounding-up 11 million refugees and deporting them will do because they just can't get past their juvenile notions of black and white, right and wrong and deal with reality.
True, people illegally crossed the border. But who among us mired in poverty, wanting to provide a better life for our family and living across the porous border of the richest nation on earth culpably beckoning for our labor wouldn't consider taking the same shot? It's the same gamble, struggle and ambition that we so admire in our forefathers. But they didn't break the law, you say. They didn't because until the late 19th century there were no laws. They simply showed up.
This bill is not perfect but it is the best answer to this vexing national dilemma and the most stringent immigration law conservatives can ever hope of achieving. We'll know for sure just how unhinged these people are if they blow this opportunity.
Marty Moore is a freelance writer living in Port Richey.