Moderate Blue Dogs endorse House rules overhaul to break gridlock

Moderate Blue Dogs endorse House rules overhaul to break gridlock
© Greg Nash

A group of conservative-leaning Democrats is throwing its weight behind the growing bipartisan campaign to overhaul House rules in an effort to break partisan gridlock.

The Blue Dog Coalition, an 18-member group, announced early Wednesday that they’re backing a series of proposals from the Problem Solvers Caucus designed to promote the passage of popular, bipartisan legislation — bills frequently blocked by small blocs of ideologues.

The leaders of the Blue Dogs said the changes will bring more transparency to the legislative process, encourage members to reach across the aisle and restore public trust in an institution many voters deem to be dysfunctional.

"The majority of Americans have made their views clear: Congress is broken, and it's time to fix it," Rep. Jim CostaJames (Jim) Manuel CostaWHIP LIST: The 228 House Democrats backing an impeachment inquiry 2020 Presidential Endorsements House GOP secures last-minute change to gun bill MORE (D-Calif.), one of the three co-chairmen of the Blue Dogs, said in a statement.

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"For far too long partisan games have blocked commonsense, bipartisan legislation that would have received overwhelming support if given a vote on the House floor.”

The endorsement comes amid a growing clamor from members of both parties for an overhaul in how business is conducted in the House, which has been practically defined by partisan standoffs in recent years.

In an effort to reverse the trend, the Problem Solvers Caucus, a 48-member coalition split between Democrats and Republicans, proposed a slate of 10 rules changes over the summer, pressing leaders of both parties to commit to adopting them as a first order of business in the next Congress.

Among the proposed reforms, the Problem Solvers group wants to require a supermajority vote — three-fifths of the House — to pass any legislation brought to the floor under a closed rule, a procedural step that bars amendments during floor debates. Republican leaders this cycle broke the record for reporting the most closed rules in a single Congress, bringing howls from Democrats — and a number of Republicans — who want to empower more lawmakers to have a say in forging legislation. 

A second proposal promotes fast-track consideration of any bill co-sponsored by at least two-thirds of the chamber. A third would make it tougher to remove a sitting Speaker, thereby preventing a small group of detractors from using threats to “vacate the chair” as a strategy for keeping certain bills off the floor.

“When Republicans and Democrats put politics aside and come together, we get things done and move our country forward,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), another Blue Dog leader. “We need to end the era of hyper partisanship in Washington, and this proposal is a key step to make that happen.”

The support from Blue Dogs lends additional momentum to the push for rules changes heading into November’s midterms. Although the group is hardly the force it was a decade ago, when Democrats controlled the House and the Blue Dogs boasted more than 50 members, Democrats are expected to make big gains in next month’s elections, and many of the Democratic candidates hail from conservative-leaning districts that could spike the group’s numbers in the next Congress.

Republican leaders of the Problem Solvers group were quick to hail the Blue Dogs' endorsement as a sign that their campaign has real legs heading into 2019.

"The appetite to change the archaic House rules continues to grow," Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedNo Labels' fight against partisanship 25 years of championing successful community development Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week MORE (R-N.Y.), one of two Problem Solvers co-chairmen, said in a statement.

"There is a willingness in Washington to tackle the difficult issues and get things done for the people back home, and rule changes are the first step in the process.”