House passes GOP rules package for new Congress

Among other things, the rules package sets the budget proposed by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in the last Congress as the starting point for consideration of future budgets.

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"The most troubling for me is the proposal to once again adopt the Ryan budget," Rules Committee ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said. "Doing so would keep alive dangerous budget proposals, including the repeal of parts of the Affordable Care Act [ACA]."

The rules also say the House is not bound by fast-track procedures in the ACA under which proposals from the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) are to be considered by Congress. The IPAB is tasked with finding savings in Medicare, but many Republicans oppose the ability of an un-elected board to make recommendations that are supposed to be quickly considered by Congress.

On this issue, new Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said the House can at any time change the law and procedure, and said doing so is consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

"Article 1, section 5 of the Constitution very clearly states that this body has the right and the responsibility to determine the rules of its proceedings," he said.

Slaughter also cited language in the rules package that would allow members of the House to fly on private planes. "I'm puzzled by that. I don't think members should be flying around on private jets," she said.

Sessions said that language would make the practice in the House the same as it is in the Senate, and said it would make air travel easier for members going to areas with limited air service. It would also requires members to pay a market rate for this travel.

In other areas, the rule allows the House to continue defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which says it is federal policy to recognize marriage as being between a man and a woman. The Obama administration has said it would stop defending DOMA.

It also allows the House to continue litigation to enforce its subpoena against Attorney General Eric Holder in the "Fast and Furious" gun-walking investigation.

Republicans defended the package as something that fits in with GOP priorities for the next two years, and also allows the House to reduce voting times on legislation.

"This rules package is straightforward and builds upon the reforms and transparency implemented in the 112th Congress to address job creation and the economy, control the growth of government, and limit wasteful spending," Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said.

Sessions noted that the language encourages House committees to seek assessments of whether proposed legislation would duplicate existing federal law, and how well the legislation might interact with existing law. It also encourages them to assess what the regulatory burden of proposed legislation might be.

Most immediately, the rule makes it in order to suspend the rules and approve legislation on Friday that deals with Hurricane Sandy cleanup efforts. Under pressure from members of both parties from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed to take up a $9 billion relief bill on Friday. The House is set to vote on another $51 billion for Sandy relief on Jan. 15.

The rule also makes it order for members of the House to run through a public reading of the U.S. Constitution on the House floor, sometime before Jan. 15. The 112th Congress read the Constitution in January 2011 as well.

Democrats tried to turn the debate into one on a resolution aimed at boosting voter protections, but Republicans blocked an attempt to take up this issue instead. Democrats also tried to amend the resolution itself in a similar way, but this also failed.

The House adjourned shortly after passing the House rule, and returns at 10 a.m. Friday.