House approves GOP rules package for 112th Congress in 240-191 vote

The House has approved a Republican rules package for the 112th Congress in a party-line, 240-191 vote.

No Democrats voted for the rule, and no Republicans voted against it.

Democrats raised several objections to the rule in an hour-long debate before the vote. Chief among these is that the Republican rule would require lawmakers to cut government spending in order to make up revenue shortfalls caused by new mandatory spending, as opposed to raising revenue through new taxes. Mandatory spending is not subject to the annual appropriations process. 

Some Democrats noted that it would prevent Congress from raising taxes or finding "tax loopholes" to close these revenue gaps. Democrats have also complained that the rule would allow the House to ignore the effect of tax cuts on the deficit.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Calif.) argued in a short statement that the rule would allow lawmakers to ignore the budgetary effects of repeal of last year's healthcare reform law. And Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the rule would let Republicans ignore budget estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and use their own estimates.

The rule would give unilateral authority to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to set budget ceilings for 2011, something else Democrats have opposed.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said in a floor statement that he opposed the rule because it includes language that would prevent delegates from the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, as well as the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, from voting on the House floor in the "committee of the whole." The committee of the whole is the term of art for when the entire House gathers as one committee to consider legislation. Earlier in the day, House Republicans rejected a proposal to effectively remove this language from the rules package. While the votes of these delegates has always been ceremonial, Democrats argued Wednesday that the Republican rule disenfranchises these delegates.

Just before the final vote, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) offered a motion to recommit the package to a select committee, and that language be added that would require members to reveal whether they will participate in the new healthcare program. But this motion was shot down in a 191-240 vote.