Politics

House GOP Mulls Changing Amendment Process for Spending Bills

Maneuver could head off surprises, give leadership time to lobby members

New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney's amendment to protect LGBT workers from discrimination took some Republican leaders by surprise. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans may soon require members who wish to amend spending bills to file their proposals in the Congressional Record before a floor vote — a maneuver designed to prevent surprises like the amendment on LGBT discrimination that led to chaos on the floor last week.  

Speaker Paul D. Ryan presented the idea of a pre-printing requirement during a House Republican Conference meeting Tuesday. It comes after members said they were confused about exactly what they were voting for Thursday when New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney offered an amendment designed to prevent discrimination against LGBT workers.  

The Maloney amendment, which failed 212-213 after some Republicans changed their votes, would have upheld President Obama’s 2014 executive order banning federal contractors from factoring a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity in their hiring decisions. But some Republicans apparently confused the amendment with other LGBT issues in the news.  

“People didn’t know if we were talking about bathrooms, locker rooms,” Rules Chairman Pete Sessions said in an apparent reference to the North Carolina law preventing transgender people from using public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.  

Most spending bills in the House are subject to an open amendment process that allows members to propose changes to bills being debated on the floor without the blessing of the Rules Committee beforehand. Typically leadership of both parties gets a heads-up on what amendments will be offered, but the proposals are not always printed and available to read before the floor vote.  

“The last few weeks there have been some confusing amendments where they were not in writing, they were presented on the floor, not everybody hears the same thing,” Sessions said. “The speaker is interested in making sure that you put it in writing — that way you all know.”  

[ Really, 30 Republicans Switched Sides on LGBT Discrimination ]  

GOP aides said that no final decisions have been made on whether the amendment proposal will move forward and if it does, how far in advance members will have to “print” their amendments in the Congressional Record. Sessions suggested the change could be implemented as soon as the House returns from its Memorial Day recess and takes up an appropriations bill.  

In addition to buying members time, the requirement could also give leadership more time to convince members to vote a certain way. But Sessions says that’s not the reason for the proposal.   

“People were confused — that was the whole point,” he said. “People weren’t sure what they were doing.”  

Contact McPherson at lindseymcpherson@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter @lindsemcpherson .  

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