There are no genuine cannibals in the United States House of Representatives, but the phrase “bite the hand that feeds” comes to life again and again. Whether due to the House’s size, volatile two-year election cycles, or political diversity, rarely a day goes by without one firebrand or another scolding their own leadership and issuing ultimatums. Liberal commentators today like to blame this on the Tea Party, but it’s hardly a new phenomenon. During Tip O’Neill’s tenure as speaker, the conservative “boll weevil” Democrats were a constant source of irritation and frequently a force that divided their party’s caucus.
The most recent back-biting revolves around the “Hastert rule,” a standard named after former speaker Dennis Hastert. It posits that any bill brought to the House floor should win at least half of the votes available in the majority party. Last week, several Republicans insisted that GOP Speaker John Boehner honor the supposed rule during the immigration debate. That would require support from 117 of the 234 GOPers for any bill that sees the light of day.