GOP Majority Brings New Rules, New Offices
The new Republican majority in the House brings a change not only in agenda but in rules and offices as well. Here are a few noteworthy differences for Members and aides to remember.
Newly Approved House Rules
• Three-day wait on proposed legislation: New House rules require proposed legislation be made public and posted online for at least three in-session days before moving forward to a vote.
• “Cut-as-you-go” budgeting: The Democrats’ favored pay-as-you-go budgeting methods have been replaced by a “cut-as-you-go” policy whereby any spending increases to programs must be offset by cuts of an equal or greater amount elsewhere. Taxes cannot be raised to pay for new programs.
• No votes for Delegates: New rules stripped the five Delegates, including one from the District of Columbia, and the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico of their right to vote in the House Committee of the Whole. Republicans argued that the votes were unconstitutional.
• Constitutionality clause: Sponsors of bills or joint resolutions are now required to identify the powers granted to Congress in the Constitution that enable the proposals. The statements of constitutional authority must be submitted to the Congressional Record before Members introduce legislation on the floor.
• Scheduling changes: With the support of Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Republicans have regularized the House schedule to a four-day Washington, D.C., workweek for two-week sessions. Every third week, Members will go back to their districts. Floor votes can only occur from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
• House Budget chairman unilateralism: The House Budget chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), has authority under the new rules to draft and move budget blueprints to the floor without consulting the committee. The chairman can push spending limits or revenue limits to the Congressional Record without a committee markup.
• New public attendance records: At the urging of Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), the rules include a new requirement that committee attendance records be made public. All committee votes must also be posted online within 48 hours after markups.
• Committee rules changes: Committees this Congress are required to post their rules electronically 30 days after electing a chairman, provide full audio and video coverage of each meeting and hearing (including that of the Rules Committee), and publicly circulate and track the text of legislation and markup changes. Chairmen must announce the date, place and subject matter of hearings a week in advance and committee meetings three days in advance.
• Committee chairmen term limits: Members may serve as committee chairmen or subcommittee chairmen for only three consecutive terms. The chairman for the Rules Committee is exempted.
• Demanding decorum: New rules ask Members and staff present on the House floor to stop talking on their mobile electronic devices while the House is in session. Although BlackBerrys and iPhones may be used, the rules say that phone conversations “impair decorum.”
• Committee name changes: Republicans have tweaked the names of three committees. The Education and Labor Committee will be referred to as the Education and Workforce Committee, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct will now be called the Ethics Committee, and the Science and Technology Committee is now the Science, Space and Technology Committee.
• Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that a women’s bathroom will be built where the Office of the Parliamentarian is currently housed. The Architect of the Capitol is working on a design for the restroom.
• The Office of the Parliamentarian will move to the location of the ceremonial Speaker’s office.
• The ceremonial Speaker’s office will be built in the office in which the House Appropriations Committee was located.
• The House Appropriations Committee will move to the Capitol sub-basement, displacing the House Ethics Committee.
• The Ethics Committee will move to a basement office in the Longworth House Office Building.
• House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) moves into the office space formerly occupied by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
• Hoyer will take the space from the Appropriations Committee on the first floor. The Appropriations Committee will keep its front office on the third floor next to the House spectators’ gallery.
• Remaining the same are the locations of the Speaker’s and Minority Leader’s offices. Boehner has taken the Speaker’s office on the second floor above the Small House Rotunda. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will take the office behind the Rayburn Room.