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Closed CR Reignites Criticism

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner and GOP leaders will break from their “Pledge to America” by not allowing floor debate on the continuing resolution that would fund the government through November.

When a stopgap measure to fund the government comes to the House floor Wednesday, there will be little fanfare, no drawn-out floor speeches and no amendments, a sharp contrast from the remarkable debate on the chamber’s budget resolution during the first part of the 112th Congress.

By and large, Speaker John Boehner and his Republican leadership team have kept their word to keep legislation open to amendments on the floor, an assurance they made during their campaign to take back the chamber. But from time to time, Republicans have found it is necessary to bend that promise, opening them to criticism that they have broken their “Pledge to America.”

That exercise will play out Wednesday with the continuing resolution, which would keep the government funded until late November.

Unlike the debate on the budget resolution, when Members introduced hundreds of amendments under a completely open process, debate on the CR will be tightly limited.

In this breach, the process will mirror the debt limit deal in July and August, which was cut behind closed doors and taken to the floor expeditiously.

But governing is complicated, Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said, and the times when House GOP leaders employed closed processes were initiated by Senate inaction, he argued, not ill House intentions.

“In a bicameral legislature, our rules — including the Pledge — only apply to the House, but we also have to deal with the Senate — which can make things more complicated,” Buck said in an email.

House Rules Committee spokeswoman Jo Maney said the party has long recognized that there would be scenarios in which regular order would not be realized, citing the debt deal and the CR.

“When we’re going up against deadlines like the end of the fiscal year and we have to keep the government running, no one wants to see a shutdown,” she said. “We pledge to go back to regular order for appropriations bills.”

Democrats see it differently, however, claiming the pledge by Republicans to make this the most open House in history is just bluster. They plan to seize on the process Wednesday and accuse Republicans of placing asterisks in a campaign document.

Democratic staffers on the House Rules Committee say that 40 percent of all bills — excluding those brought under suspension of the rules — were brought to the floor under a closed rule, while another 37 percent were brought under structured rules. Nine percent came under modified open rules and the same percentage of rules were completely open.

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