Former U.S. House Speaker Weighs In On Shutdown


Former U.S. House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Ill.) says he cannot answer how or when, but he is confident the partial federal government shutdown will come to an end. 

Hastert was not the Speaker of the U.S. House during the last government shutdown, but he was an Illinois Congressman in 1995 and '96. He said back then, Republicans were trying to get a handle on spending. He says it worked.

"We came out with a budget agreement and because of that budget agreement the first three years that I was Speaker we able to pay down about $650 billion of public debt,” Hastert said. “You know, that was, that was, a good result out of that. It was something that was necessary and that's what we did."

Hastert said this is different. He said Washington has failed to reconcile a budget on time, and that causes a logjam.

"If you get in these types of pressure cooker situations it's artificial, because people made it happen,” he noted. “If you go regular process you would never had had it happen.  In the eight years I was speaker we always went regular process."

"The President at least has to put something on the table, so that they begin to bargain," he added.

Hastert's long-term idea for resolving Washington's problems is less obvious. It is not about the budget, and it is not related to the Affordable Care Act.

"You have to change the campaign system," he said.

Hastert blames D.C.'s gridlock on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. He said it took money away from parties, and instead drove contributions and candidates to the far right and the far left.

"I think that Congress has become much more polarized because of McCain-Feingold,” he said. “When it becomes polarized, it's very much more difficult to find solutions to problems."

Republican members of the U.S. House are refusing to pass a spending bill without a delay of the Affordable Care Act.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio