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updated: 1/18/2013 7:24 PM

Hastert: Boehner should choose next moves wisely

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  • Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

       Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
    Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

  • House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have said they won't agree to a debt-limit extension without an accord to cut spending.

      House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have said they won't agree to a debt-limit extension without an accord to cut spending.
    Associated Press file photo

By Kerry Lester
Political Editor

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert says his Republican successor should choose his next moves carefully or he'll find himself a precarious position in the Republican-led House.

Hastert, House speaker from 1999 to 2007, is the namesake of the unofficial Hastert rule of bringing legislation to the floor for a vote only if the majority party in the House of Representatives supports it. The rule -- "the majority of the majority," as Hastert has famously quipped -- has been called into question by some in recent years as contributing to government gridlock.

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House Speaker John Boehner broke the so-called Hastert rule twice in recent weeks, on votes on the fiscal cliff legislation and $50.5 billion disaster relief package for Hurricane Sandy. In both instances, more Republicans voted against the bills than for them.

Hastert defended the rule as good leadership.

"He's got some big bills coming up," Hastert, of suburban Plano, said of the House's upcoming agenda, which includes votes next week on raising the debt ceiling.

"There are some more 'mini cliffs,'" Hastert said. "We'll see how he handles it."

Hastert warned against Boehner becoming too reliant on Democratic votes to pass legislation.

"If you start depending on other sides to make your majority, then you don't have a real majority," Hastert said.

While the Hastert rule is an unofficial one, Hastert said, "basically most other speakers have followed it. If you want to move an agenda you need to have the votes to pass it."

An ideologically rigid house has tested Boehner's leadership, with other members of the leadership table, including House GOP Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Wheaton, voting against both the fiscal cliff package and the Sandy legislation.

Roskam told the Daily Herald earlier this month that insufficient federal spending cuts led him to split with Boehner and vote against the fiscal cliff deal.

Despite a fracturing of opinion at the leadership table, Roskam said Boehner should not be criticized for bringing the legislation to the House floor.

"When 89 senators agree on something, the House needs to consider it and debate it. He followed through on that," Roskam said."

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