With an aggressive agenda and a tight schedule, senior House Republican appropriators plan to urge their rank and file to withhold divisive or duplicative amendments that could derail their bills this year.
Appropriators want to move all 12 spending bills individually by early July, they said, but poison-pill amendments could bog down the process and result in another round of omnibus packages that the Republican Conference despises.
On the other hand, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) promised an open amendment process in the GOP’s “Pledge to America” and Members could revolt against any effort to keep them from bringing up their favored provisions.
That leaves Appropriations subcommittee chairmen, the veteran cardinals, with a quandary this year: keeping order in an open process.
“You don’t want to tell somebody that they can’t offer an amendment, yet you really need to think about it,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment.
The Idaho Republican held four days of hearings last year and only scratched the surface of the myriad amendments Members introduced. Simpson said last year’s mad dash to defund President Barack Obama’s health care law, for instance, and Members’ insistence on other pet spending-cut amendments was simply too much.
“Many of the amendments are press release amendments,” he said. “Last year, we repealed Obamacare nine times. ... It’s like, ‘We mean it. No, we really mean it, No, no, we really, really mean it.’ At some point in time, the Conference has got to come together and realize that if they want this open process, they have to be a part of making it work.”
Although the conversations have not started yet, Simpson said he plans to speak with his rank and file. He particularly wants to urge Members with overlapping amendments to get together and consolidate.
Simpson, who is close to Boehner, might have some level of support from leadership in his endeavor.
“Speaker Boehner is committed to an open and robust debate in the House of Representatives, but it seems sensible to avoid duplicative amendments,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
The cardinals are certainly under pressure from on high to move the spending bills for fiscal 2013. One subcommittee aide said they are planning about 11 hearings over the course of five weeks. The first hearings are anticipated to begin next week.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.