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House Bid to Cut Red Tape Gets Snagged

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer angered some Republicans when he said Democrats would not grant the GOP unanimous consent to fix a typo that fundamentally changed a regulatory moratorium bill.

“It would have made it tough for our Members. If you had timber in your district and that was big from a jobs standpoint, it would have put you in a tough spot,” one aide said. “It’s not anything that was at the top of the priority list where the constituents were going to pick up the phone and call Member of Congress X and say, ‘I need you to vote for this bill because this is bad for my business.’ Because people don’t know what the hell the Lacey Act is.”

Meanwhile, a major typo threw a wrench into the gears of the regulatory moratorium bill, prompting pleas for cooperation, mockery and recriminations.

Republicans ultimately had to schedule an emergency Rules Committee meeting on Wednesday to pass a self-executing rule that, when passed in the House, likely today, will alter the text of the regulatory measure.

The GOP bill was intended to ban new regulations until the unemployment rate decreased to 6 percent but instead instituted the moratorium until 6 percent “employment.”

The mistake altered the meaning of the bill, making it a ban on regulations until the country reached an unrealistic 94 percent unemployment rate. GOP requests to Democrats to allow it to be fixed via unanimous consent fell on deaf ears.

“We’re not going to give unanimous consent” to fix the typo, Hoyer said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters Wednesday morning. “I know Republicans read the bills,” Hoyer joked.  “My, my, my, how carefully they read that bill.”

The move surprised Republicans, who said they thought they had reached a deal with Hoyer on Tuesday night to allow the fix in exchange for a small, unidentified scheduling change requested by Democrats.

“We never agreed to anything,” a senior Democratic aide said.

As Democrats mocked Republicans, reminding them of their many vows to “read the bill,” GOP aides adopted a dark humor, dubbing the incident “Typogate.”

They also pointed to an incident in 2010, when Republicans allowed Democrats to correct a typo on a small-business bill, arguing the minority was being petty.

“I’ve been thinking, ‘What would I do if I were in the minority?’” Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) asked. “I think it’s just crazy. I mean, they refuse to grant unanimous consent over two simple letters, which are U, N.”

Rules spokesman Doug Andres said the correct version of the bill had been reported from the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees. But because of a “clerical error” introduced in the Rules Committee print, the bill was fundamentally changed.

Republican aides said they had not yet identified who introduced the error into the text.

On the House floor, the incident led to a skirmish between Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).

Issa asked Connolly whether he would allow the typo to be fixed if Republicans requested unanimous consent to do so. Connolly reserved the right to object. “Nothing could be more insincere than to pick on professional staff on a typographical error,” Issa fumed.

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