GOP bends its own new House rules
By JAKE SHERMAN | 1/6/11
Just hours after taking control of the House, Republicans passed a sweeping set of rules promising transparency and reform.
After calling for bills to go through a regular committee process, the bill that would repeal the health care law will not go through a single committee. Despite promising a more open amendment process for bills, amendments for the health care repeal will be all but shut down. After calling for a strict committee attendance list to be posted online, Republicans backpedaled and ditched that from the rules. They promised constitutional citations for every bill but have yet to add that language to early bills. (See: GOP backpedals on committee attendance rule)
Republicans say there are subtle reasons for these moves and that they certainly will follow their own rules throughout the 112th Congress. But the hedging on some promises shows just how hard it will be to always match the sharp rhetoric of the campaign with the ugly and complex work of running the House. (See: The era of Speaker Boehner begins)
The promise of full debate in committees, for example, was inspired by Republican complaints that Democrats abused their power in bypassing regular debate. Republicans such as Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Rules Chairman David Dreier of California all have complained that Democrats in the last Congress didn’t bring a single bill under a process called the open rule — a mechanism that allows for nearly unlimited amendments and debate. None of the bills that will be brought to the floor this week will be brought under open rules. When asked directly whether he would bring the repeal bill to the floor under an open rule, Cantor dodged the question. (See: House to vote on health repeal next week)
“The repeal bill is going to be a very straightforward document,” Cantor said this week. “It is going to reflect what I think most people inside the Beltway and outside the Beltway understand about the health care bill that was passed. It is a job-killing health care bill that spends money we don’t have, and we need to repeal it and replace it with the kind of health care that most Americans expect.”
Regarding the failure to put the constitutional citation into bills, Republicans say that typically will come when a bill hits the floor. The three bills that Republicans plan to introduce this week — one to cut the congressional budget, one to repeal the health care bill and another to instruct House committees to present new health care legislation — were posted on the Rules Committee website with plenty of time for review, but none had the constitutional citation for similar review. Aides vowed the citations would be available when the bills hit the floor. How detailed the citations will be remains to be seen, aides on both sides of the aisle say. (See: GOP won't count cost of repeal)