Politics

Democrats’ Draft House Rules Would Return Some Regular Order

All major bills going through committee is just one of many rule changes proposed

Incoming Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., presented draft proposals for overhauling House rules to the Democratic Caucus on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats’ draft proposals for overhauling the House rules would return at least some so-called regular order processes to the lower chamber by ensuring major bills go through committee before hitting the floor. 

The requirement that all bills being brought to the floor under a rule must have gone through a committee hearing and markup is just one of several notable changes Democrats are floating to House rules now that they’ll be in the majority. 

Incoming Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern presented the draft proposals, a list of which was obtained by Roll Call, to the Democratic Caucus Thursday afternoon.

Some of the notable proposals include:

 

  • Requiring bill text to be available for a full 72 hours before the bill can go the floor. (There’s a three-day rule now, but it’s enforcement is counted by calendar days between posting the floor vote, not the actual number of hours.)
  • Reinstating the Gephardt rule that provides for the automatic engrossment of a House joint resolution changing the statutory limit when Congress has completed action on a budget resolution.
  • Ending the Holman rule that Republicans reinstated two years ago to allow members to offer amendments to appropriations bills designed to reduce the scope and size of government.
  • Eliminating so-called dynamic scoring, another Republican-used tool that allows the Congressional Budget Office to provide macroeconomic analyses of bills that factor in projected economic growth resulting from the policy.
  • Requiring a three-fifths supermajority to pass legislation that would raise income taxes on the lowest-earning 80 percent of taxpayers. 
  • Granting voting rights to delegates of U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. 
  • Mandating all committees to hold a members-day hearing so that people who don’t sit on the panel can provide input on its agenda.
  • Creating a diversity office to help offices with hiring qualified candidates from a wide array of backgrounds.
  • Preventing members and staff from serving on corporate boards (a proposal that came up after New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins was indicted for insider trading of information he learned as a board member of Innate Immunotherapeutics).

One proposal not included on the list is a restoration of earmarks.

Since the 2010 earmark ban Republicans implemented was included only in their intraparty rules, Democrats technically do not need to use the rules package to restore them. They can just start using them again. 

However, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who’s expected to be majority leader next Congress, has suggested that language be added to the rules package outlining the parameters under which earmarks could be used and providing guidelines for ensuring they are transparent. 

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