Facing the prospect of Democrats forcing a vote on a "clean" Department of Homeland Security funding bill, conservatives are calling on House Republicans to adopt a resolution blocking the legislative maneuver.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, released a statement Monday following a Roll Call story laying out how Democrats could use House rules to get a vote on the Senate-passed DHS funding bill — the one that doesn't block President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration and funds the agency through Sept. 30. "Clause 4 of Rule XXII of the House Rules provides privilege to a motion to dispose of any amendments ‘when the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution’ as soon as the Senate formally disagrees," King wrote in a rather wonky news release. "The DHS appropriations bill reached the stage of disagreement in the House last Friday. The Senate is poised to act tonight. From that moment, Nancy Pelosi or any Member of the majority or the minority can make a privileged motion to fund executive amnesty through September 2015."
King notes that, "under the Constitution," both chambers of Congress make their own rules. Therefore, he said, the House can change its rules by simple majority and "has a duty to do so to protect the Constitution."
"It is our urgent obligation to immediately amend or suspend Clause 4 of Rule XXII," he continued.
King's proposed resolution is only one sentence long — "Resolved, That any motion pursuant to clause 4 of rule XXII relating to the bill H.R. 240 may be offered only by the Majority Leader or his designee" — and it mirrors an earlier resolution the House adopted in the first hours of the October 2013 government shutdown to block Democrats from bringing up a "clean" continuing resolution for the entire government.
King asserts that Republicans were elected on a promise to stop Obama's executive action. "A single clause in a rule we have the power to change is not an excuse to fund lawlessness," he wrote. "This is only a trap if we fail to act. Leadership’s back is not against the wall unless they choose it to be."
Heritage Action gave CQ Roll Call a similar statement Monday afternoon, contending that GOP leaders were of course still in the driver's seat here, and, should Democrats use this tactic, Republicans would be to blame.
“Any insinuation that House Republican leaders are not firmly in control of whether or not the Senate bill comes to the floor is absurd," Dan Holler, the communications director for Heritage Action, wrote in an email.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office declined to comment on the prospect of Democrats using the gambit, but Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer seemed to signal in his weekly pen-and-pad briefing on Monday that using the legislative tactic was "obviously an option."
The Maryland Democrat told reporters he expected the Senate to reject the motion to go to conference Monday night, and that the House would have an opportunity to vote on a "clean" DHS funding bill.
“Why do you think the Democrats voted for a one-week when we almost in a united fashion voted against the three week?” Hoyer said. “Try to analyze that.”
Hoyer specifically pointed to Pelosi's comments in a letter to her Democratic colleagues Friday night — just before the House voted on a one-week continuing resolution for DHS — that said, "Your vote tonight will assure that we will vote for full funding next week."
While Speaker John A. Boehner's office has repeatedly insisted there was "no deal " between Pelosi and Boehner to bring up a "clean" long-term bill, the beauty of the House rules is there doesn't need to be. Boehner's office continued to point to the Ohio Republican's belief in "regular order," which could be a way of alluding to the Rule XXII.
Regardless, lawmakers could find out the fate of DHS soon. The Senate is expected to vote down the House motion to go to conference Monday night. And while the papers from the Senate probably won't get to the House in time for a vote Monday evening, any lawmaker — absent a resolution similar to King's — will be able to bring up the bill this week.
And should a lawmaker bring up the King resolution for a vote, House Democrats could make their privileged motion to dispose of the House motion to "disagree" with the Senate amendment, functionally taking up the Senate-passed legislation. If the King resolution, or a similar one, is not adopted Monday, Democrats always have their ability to make their privileged motion to concur with the Senate. That is, as long as House leaders don't block that ability.
But, if this truly is the out that Boehner and Pelosi may — or may not — have tacitly worked out, why would GOP leaders block Democrats from the motion?
Democrats could defer to Boehner to see if he brings up a bill on his own, perhaps opting for a more direct approach over the obscure rules procedure that could anger conservatives even further. But Democrats also could rip the Band-Aid off quickly and try to get the DHS bill through before GOP opposition to the maneuver is fomented.
Either way, the House floor should be interesting this week.
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. Related: Boehner to Allow Clean Homeland Security Vote How an Obscure Rule Could Give Boehner a Way Out of DHS Mess House Averts Shutdown of DHS for 1 Week (Video) House GOP Fails to Advance 3-Week DHS Funding Bill New Tea Party Caucus Chairman: DHS Fight Could Break the GOP The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.