Speaker Paul D. Ryan thinks he’s lived up to his promise to open up debate on legislation and restore so-called regular order in the House, blaming the rushed process of the fiscal 2018 omnibus on Democrats, deadlines and a funeral.
“By and large, we’ve done a phenomenal job,” the Wisconsin Republican said when asked if he feels he’s delivered on the promises he made to House Republicans when taking over as speaker in 2015.
“When we do not follow regular order, when we rush to pass bills that a lot of us don’t understand, we are not doing our job,” Ryan said after his election as speaker. “Only a fully functioning House can truly represent the people.“
But many House Republicans, particularly hard-line conservatives in the Freedom Caucus, disagree. They see Thursday’s vote on the $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 omnibus as representative of everything Ryan said he wouldn’t do as speaker.
The roughly 2,200-page bill omnibus was filed Wednesday around 8 p.m., and the House voted on it around 1 p.m. Thursday, giving members virtually no time to read or digest it.
Watch: We’ve Done ‘A Phenomenal Job’ Restoring Regular Order, Ryan Says
The rule on the measure prevented amendments from being offered and allowed for a single hour of debate for both parties to divide equally.
Ryan said negotiations on the omnibus took longer than GOP leaders wanted because they had to work with Democrats and the Senate. As part of a claim to an open process, he cited the House Appropriations Committee’s hearings and markups of its bills that helped shape the final measure.
“It’s not as if these are big surprises. These have been long works in progress,” the speaker said. “The finishing touches came out this week. And we have a hard deadline we’re working up against.”
G. William Hoagland, a former Senate Budget and leadership aide now with the Bipartisan Policy Center, praised Congress for “making significant and critical investments that will improve Americans’ lives” with the omnibus, but didn’t sound so impressed with the process.
“Less worthy of celebration, however, are the opaque process by which this agreement was reached, the five Continuing Resolutions it took to get to this point, and the lack of any attempt to pay for billions of dollars in new spending. ... This lack of regular order is one more example of why Congress must reform its budget process without delay, and the recently-named bipartisan, bicameral budget reform committee is a good start,” Hoagland said in a statement.
Another scapegoat Ryan used for rushing the bill to the floor was the self-imposed March 23 funding deadline they were up against — something everyone has been aware of for nearly five weeks, since they agreed to the latest continuing resolution.
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said Republicans had six months to get the omnibus right, and rushing it to the floor in violation of their already tight three-day rule was “an abomination of the legislative process.”
“We ought to go back to a process that we can respect, you argued we’re going to follow, you pledged to the American people you were going to follow — and that Mr. Cantor and Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Ryan wrote a book about,” the Maryland Democrat said to Republicans, referencing “Young Guns,” a book Ryan co-authored with former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his leadership successor Kevin McCarthy. “And they said we’re going to change this institution and do it right.”
Ryan dodged a question about why GOP leaders didn’t just pass another short-term CR to give members more time to read the omnibus, again citing the March 23 deadline, as well as the death of New York Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter.
“We have a member who passed away whose funeral is tomorrow and we want to be sensitive to that as well,” he said.
Dozens of members are expected to travel to Rochester, New York, for Slaughter’s funeral Friday.