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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.

Buck countered that the statistics don’t contradict the pledge because it only applies to spending bills. As written, it reads, “We will make sure that the floor schedule and operations reflect the priority of revitalizing the economy, and ensure there is an open process that makes it easier — not harder — to eliminate unnecessary spending on any legislation that spends the people’s money.”

Rules Committee Democrats cite as examples of legislation that came to floor under closed rules the GOP’s legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, extensions of spending authority for federal aviation and ground transportation programs, and a measure to cut off funding for National Public Radio.

The three-day rule has succumbed to tight deadlines, too. The debt deal was not posted online for three days before the vote, for example.

When two Members voted before they were sworn in on Jan. 7, a resolution to strike their votes was introduced and approved the same day. Maney said the vote was aboveboard because the three-day rule does not apply to resolutions.

“The three-day layover rule applies to legislation; it does not apply to House resolutions,” she said. “House resolutions don’t have the force of law.”

The scuffle over process is a constant irritant between the majority and minority.

In 2009, House Republicans criticized Democrats for limiting amendments to appropriations bills, claiming the use of structured rules for spending bills was unprecedented and violated the minority’s rights. Democrats responded that similar rules were used by Republicans when they were in the majority.

Now Democrats find themselves arguing for a more open process, saying Republicans have tamped down on their ability to offer amendments. Republicans argue they are being more open than their predecessors.

Sen. Roy Blunt, who previously served as Whip when he was in the House, said his colleagues should stick with their pledge to a more open process, particularly since it was made to draw a contrast with the leadership of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“I actually think they need to do that for one Congress and see how well it works, if that’s what you promised to do. It might be more difficult than some other way, and then next time you have to go back and explain why this didn’t work out as well as you thought it would,” the Missouri Republican said. “Pelosi and the health care bill drew a level of attention to huge bills and Members not reading them ... and established a different level of public concern about these issues.”

The pledge, of course, is a political, not a legal, document.

That means the repercussions of breaking it — or being perceived as doing so — will be political, too, said Jason Poblete, a former Republican staffer who worked alongside Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in the office of McCarthy’s predecessor, Rep. Bill Thomas (R).

“The voters will decide when [or] if we broke them,” Poblete said.

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