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Ryan Takes Crowdsourcing Approach to Spending Bills

Ryan holds his first weekly on-camera press conference Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In pursuing a departure from "business as usual," Speaker Paul D. Ryan is crowdsourcing his members for ideas on how to craft a spending deal for the remainder of fiscal 2016.  

"So things are gonna be done a little differently around here," Ryan said Thursday, at his first solo news conference. "I laid before our conference today a choice of options," he said. "Instead of having leadership pre-determine, pre-negotiate and pre-decide how things are gonna go, I wanted to invite our members to discuss how we move forward."  

One of those options could be debating and voting on individual spending bills on the House floor — those that were never considered after controversies over Planned Parenthood and the Confederate flag derailed the appropriations process — even with a Dec. 11 deadline to negotiate the full "omnibus" package.  

Ryan Outlines Appropriations Strategy

On Thursday, after hosting a 9 a.m. GOP conference meeting, Ryan directed the Republican whip team to ask members two questions: Would they support bringing up the Financial Services appropriations bill as a standalone measure? And if so, would they vote for it?  

"I don't know the results of that whip," Ryan said in response to a question from CQ Roll Call. "They're still tallying it now. But, again, this is how it's going to be."  

Ryan's proposition is a dicey one. Financial services is one of the most contentious of the 12 annual appropriations measures. In recent years, GOP leaders have kept it off the floor to shield it from potentially fatal policy riders, such as restrictions on abortions in Washington, D.C., and rollbacks of the financial regulatory overhaul bill known as Dodd-Frank.  

Ryan also told members Thursday he was calling for  "listening sessions" between rank-and-file lawmakers and appropriations subcommittee chairmen whose bills never made it beyond the full panel — another way to include members in omnibus negotiations.  

In these forums, members would have a chance to express policy preferences they would have asserted on the House floor during an open amendment process, and having these conversations away from the C-SPAN cameras would seem like a safer bet, especially for one such as financial services.  

But Ryan said he wasn't interested in playing things safe if it came at the expense of an open legislative process.  

"I'm gonna tell you: Bills may come up that do not pass," he said. "We're not going to auto-up the process and predetermine the outcome of everything around here.  

"I want the House to work its will," Ryan continued. "I think that's how the founders envisioned it to work. So that means some things will pass, and some things won't, and we're gonna let that happen."  

Republican appropriators left town for a week-long recess Thursday emphasizing no decisions have been made as to whether a financial services appropriations bill would be on the agenda upon their return. While many of them said they understood the importance of making the legislative process more collaborative, they were cool to this particular idea, preferring instead to focus their energies on negotiating the omnibus.  

At a news conference immediately following Ryan's, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., didn't comment specifically on the prospects of considering standalone appropriations bills on the floor in the weeks ahead, but called the whole concept of omnibus listening sessions "curious."  

"I wish [Ryan] well with it," Pelosi said, "but out of respect [for] the knowledge, the expertise members have on their subcommittees, I think that will be an interesting dynamic to see how his appropriators react to his whole conference weighing in on the bills of their committees and calling it, 'we're respecting the committee system.' "  

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