Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan won’t say if he has seen evidence of contact between Trump campaign, Russia The Hill's 12:30 Report GOP leader: Leaked ObamaCare replacement 'no longer' viable MORE (R-Wis.) means business when it comes to being on time for House votes.
Tardiness has long been a largely unenforced problem when it comes to voting. Last week, Ryan chastised colleagues for being late, saying that "voting within the allotted time would help with the maintenance of the institution."
He abruptly ordered Wednesday's vote be closed after the allotted 15 minutes on legislation to prevent the Obama administration from lifting sanctions on Iranian entities unless it certifies they aren't involved with terrorism or the country's ballistic missile program.
Typically, the first votes of a series take closer to 30 minutes than the official 15 minutes. Lawmakers typically take longer than the allotted time to break from meetings or walk over to the Capitol from their offices across the street.
As a result of Wednesday’s tardiness problem, the House likely won’t vote on the legislation until after the Iran sanctions are already starting to be lifted.
“Implementation day, which is the day on which Iran proves that it has sufficiently downsized its nuclear program and can begin to receive sanctions relief, is going to take place very soon, likely within the next coming days somewhere,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a speech earlier Wednesday.
Had the House passed the legislation on Wednesday, it would have come a day after Iran released 10 U.S. sailors it had taken into custody along with two U.S. Navy vessels, sparking a diplomatic crisis for the White House mere hours before President Obama’s final State of the Union address before Congress.
The previously scheduled vote was designed as a response to Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests, which have sparked bipartisan outrage.
“Since the Obama administration sealed the nuclear deal with Iran, Iran has been on a bit of a tear,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), citing the ballistic missile tests, Tuesday’s detainment of U.S. sailors and rockets fired near a U.S. aircraft carrier.
“I’m sure it’s occurred to many of us that if Iran behaves this way now, in a few days when it gets its hands on this bankroll ... what other actions are we going to see from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps?” Royce asked.
Democrats largely oppose the bill because of concerns that it would prevent the U.S. from upholding its part of the nuclear deal with Iran.
“It would make it impossible for the United States to meet its obligations under the [Iran deal],” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Rather than holding Iran’s feet to the fire and strengthening oversight, we seem to be going down the same path we’ve taken with the Affordable Care Act."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the vote should have been held open a bit longer to accommodate late-comers on such a significant piece of legislation. But she also emphasized that she supports Ryan's broader goal, saying it's "a great idea to stay within the time.”
"[It's] a very important vote on Iran, and one that everyone wanted to be on record [for]. And many people were in the chamber, and according to what I hear some of the Republicans say, they were coming in the door," Pelosi said during a press briefing immediately after the vote. "So I think the gaveling was premature, but I think the Speaker is rightfully serious about expeditiously dealing with the votes in a timely fashion."
Despite frequent admonishment from Ryan's predecessor, former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), tardiness largely went unpunished. In a display similar to Ryan's last week, Boehner would lecture lawmakers on the importance of being on time for votes. But the routine of late lawmakers never changed under Boehner.
The emphasis on timeliness earned some plaudits from House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who served as majority leader from 2007 to 2011 and knows the pitfalls of running the floor schedule.
“I personally as a former majority leader appreciate the policy enunciated by the Speaker in turn to accommodate member schedules so that we vote on time,” Hoyer said, while expressing appreciation that lawmakers would still have a chance to vote on the bill later this month.
A spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told The Hill that a plan is in the works for the House to conduct a re-vote of the legislation when it returns from recess the week of Jan. 25.
The message is clear for the do-over later this month: Lawmakers better be on time.
—Last updated at 1:33 p.m.; Mike Lillis contributed.