House

Freedom Caucus demands rule changes for House and GOP conference

In anticipation of Congress potentially flipping to Republican control next year, the conservative House Freedom Caucus released a list of proposals to change rules in the GOP conference and in the House as a whole.

The proposed changes would result in decentralizing power in both the House GOP and the whole House and give more power to individual members. 

That is certainly of interest to Freedom Caucus members, who often turn to hard-line and confrontational legislative tactics when trying to advance their agenda. The group’s signature legislative move in this Congress is requesting recorded votes for typically noncontroversial bills, leading to delays and some frustration from other members of their party.

“To fix the House of Representatives, we must first put Republicans’ own house in order,” according to a memo outlining preferred rule changes.

First, the Freedom Caucus wants a formal “majority of the majority” rule for the conference. Such a rule would ensure that legislation passed in the House is also supported by a majority of House Republicans. The Speaker of the House, regardless of party, generally follows that pattern, dubbed the Hastert Rule, but it has been broken in the past. 

Former GOP House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), who resigned from Congress after an aggressive campaign against him by conservatives in the Freedom Caucus, oversaw passage of several bills that did not have support from a majority of the GOP conference.

Then, the Freedom Caucus — currently chaired by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) — proposes selecting committee chairs through a vote of the committee rather than GOP leadership. Most GOP committee chairs and ranking members are selected by the conference’s steering committee, a group of 31 House Republicans and leadership. The Freedom Caucus argues that the system rewards fundraising and party loyalty.

A measure to significantly increase the number of members on the GOP Conference Steering Committee by adding more “regional representative” positions. That would have the effect of reducing GOP leadership’s power in major party decisions.

Aiming to “open the legislative process,” the Freedom Caucus suggest a House GOP Conference rule to require that all legislation considered on the House floor is allowed amendments, or alternatively, allow amendments supported by at least 10 percent of the GOP Conference.

Its last GOP conference rule tried to incentivize on-time passage of appropriations bills by prohibiting a GOP Speaker of the House from recessing or adjourning the House after Sept. 10 until it has passed all regular appropriations bills.

When it comes to rules for the whole House, the caucus proposes starting by reverting to House rules before Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took power, which would eliminate proxy voting and restoring the ability of any member to make a “motion to vacate the Chair,” a motion to essentially oust the Speaker.

Former Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a founding Freedom Caucus member, helped propel Boehner toward retirement by making a motion to vacate the chair in 2015. Before that, it had not been used since 1910. Currently, it is a motion that can only be made on the GOP side by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The group also wants to restore the Holman Rule which allows members to make spending cuts targeted at specific programs or employees, eyeing cutting Anthony Fauci’s salary, and calls for requiring that legislation is released at least 120 hours — five days — before a vote in the House, and require a two-thirds vote to wave the rule.

And lastly, the group wants to end “community funding projects,” the revamped earmarks process that was reinstituted with approval from both parties after being banned for a decade

“The leaders of both political parties have consolidated so much power that most Members of Congress have no meaningful role in the legislative process beyond voting up or down,” a caucus memo on proposed changes said. “Republicans ran to fix Washington so we should not continue the same system that broke it.”

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