House passes rule allowing suspension bills through December

The rule is needed because normally, suspension bills are considered Monday through Wednesday. But because the House expects to be in for at least the next week waiting for an agreement on the fiscal cliff, it wants the ability to move non-controversial legislation throughout the week.

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Suspension bills are usually those that can easily be passed, and putting them on the suspension calendar allows them to proceed with less debate, although a two-thirds majority vote is needed for passage.

Earlier in the day, Democrats mocked Republicans for bringing up the rule, and said it shows Republicans are not interested in passing a bill extending the current middle-class tax levels. Republicans have countered that taxes, spending and several other issues are the subjects of negotiations between Congress and the White House, and that it does not yet make sense to pass a Senate bill extending middle-class tax relief.

The House approved the rule immediately after it turned away a Democratic attempt to require the House to stay in session until it passes this middle-class tax relief bill.

Because the rule only applies to activities in the House, it does not need to be approved by the Senate.

Specifically, the rule gives the House the authority to consider suspension bills through Dec. 28. That is as good as allowing the House to consider these bills through the end of the 112th Congress on Jan. 2, since House rules already allow suspension bills in the last six days of any Congress.

In a separate vote, members rejected H.R. 6190, the Asthma Inhalers Relief Act, in a 229-182 vote. The bill was brought up under a suspension of House rules, so it needed a two-thirds majority for passage.

This bill would have allowed the remaining stock of the over-the-counter asthma inhaler Primatene Mist to be sold again in the United States. That inhaler was removed from U.S. shelves in order to comply with an environmental treaty.

Supporters of the bill say the product would only contribute minimally to ozone depletion, and that asthma sufferers have few other choices for over-the-counter products.

— This story was updated at 5:20 p.m.