ExIm Finally Comes to a House Vote, and Sails Through. Plus Bonus Hastert-Rule Discussion!

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This is a closing-the-loop note. After the travails of the past few months, as recorded in the other items in this Thread, the re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank finally made its way to the House floor. And when it did …

New York Times story on the House vote

The final margin in the House was well over two-to-one in favor, 313 supporting and 118 opposed.


The most intriguing part of the vote is not that all but one of the Democrats supported the bank, the exception being Alan Grayson of Florida. It was that most Republicans did too. In the end 127 Republicans voted Yes, or 52% of the GOP membership (along with 186 Democrats, or 99%). Only 117 Republicans, 48%, voted No.

The man who gave us the Hastert Rule, in happier times (Wikipedia)

What’s interesting about that? It demonstrates how the venerable “Hastert Rule,” already in need of a branding change because of its namesake’s legal problems, has been stretched to a newly dysfunctional conformation.

In its original form, the Hastert Rule was the idea that the Speaker would allow a vote on a bill only if it had majority support within the majority party. This was to prevent a unified minority, plus a little sliver of the majority, from sneaking a measure through. But even by that logic, the ExIm vote should have happened long ago! Most Republicans were for it! But just as the filibuster has been stretched from an in-extremis protection to a routine obstacle, so has the Hastert Rule been expanded to prohibit votes on measure that even a noisy fraction of the majority party dislikes.

The American Constitution was designed to protect minority rights while also allowing majority governance. More and more the “while also” part falls victim to changed norms: most obviously with the filibuster, but with the Hastert Rule as well. Maybe we should leave it with its now-tarnished name to reflect its fallen status.