Pelosi confidant praises Republicans for 'retro' floor debate on spending bill

A senior House Democrat on Thursday praised the open debate format Republican leaders implemented to consider their proposal to fund the government. 

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), a confidant of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said that the format, which permits debate on hundreds of amendments, is "encouraging."

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"It's rather retro. We haven't operated this way in probably a decade. But it's rather encouraging," he said on MSNBC.

It's rare that a liberal House Democrat, especially one as high-ranking as Miller, would praise Republicans, who swept Democrats out of power in the 2010 midterm elections. Miller is the ranking member on the Education and Workforce Committee.

Republican leaders have played up the fact they passed a "modified open rule" on the continuing resolution, which allows for the consideration of hundreds of amendments that lawmakers submitted into the Congressional Record beforehand. They have contrasted their approach to Pelosi's frequent use of limited debate when she was Speaker. 

The GOP often complained during Pelosi's tenure that their amendments were not heard and that not enough time was allotted for debate, especially on contentious bills such as the healthcare reform proposal.

Asked why Pelosi did not use the open rule during her time as Speaker, Miller said, "I don't know, but this is where we are now."

A spokesman for Pelosi this week downplayed the Republicans' openness, saying the real bill was written behind closed doors.

“This bill was written by Republicans behind closed doors in special conference meetings and in the Speaker’s office,” said Nadeam Elshami. “This bill was written in secret.”  

The modified open rule has nixed at least one spending item supported by House Republican leaders: $450 million slated for an alternative engine for the F-35 fighter jet. 

The pile of amendments might force the House to cut into its Presidents Day recess.

For his part, Miller joked about the length of the debate.

"It was a pleasure last night working around the clock," he said.

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