Dems unveil rules package to promote diversity, hit deficit

House Democrats have unveiled a package of new rules for the upcoming Congress that aim to promote diversity and attack the deficit.

The rules package would explicitly ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and would allow people to wear religious headgear in the House chamber. It would also create a House Financial Services subcommittee on diversity in the financial services industry.

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The House is expected to vote on the package on Thursday, after the new Democratic majority is sworn in and the House elects a new Speaker.

Some of the budgetary rules provoked quick criticism from the left, which argued a "pay-as-you-go" provision requiring a point of order against any bill that raised the deficit or reduced a surplus could make it harder to pass legislation on health care and other issues.

The rule can be waived, and bills designated as emergencies are exempt.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaBombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Armed Services chair calls defense bill 'most progressive in the history of the country' after criticism Lawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space Force deal MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBiden narrowly ahead in Iowa as Sanders surges, Warren drops: poll Democrats reach cusp of impeachment Progressives hopeful for deal with Pelosi to avert showdown on drug prices MORE (D-N.Y.) both said they would vote against the rules package because of the pay-go provision.

 

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill responded by stating that a vote against the House Democrats’ rules “is a vote to let Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyMulvaney: 'Politics can and should influence foreign policy' The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing MORE make across the board cuts, unilaterally reversing Democratic initiatives and funding increases.”

Mulvaney is President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE's acting chief of staff and the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Hammill said a pay-go mechanism under federal law already requires the Office of Management and Budget to offset deficit-increasing bills with across-the-board mandatory spending cuts. The House Democrats’ rule would allow Democrats to designate “appropriate offsets,” including tax increases.

Another budget-related portion of the House Democrats’ rules package, often known as the “Gephardt rule,” would cause the House to automatically pass legislation suspending the debt limit when it adopts a budget resolution.

The federal debt limit is slated to be reinstated on March 2, but the Treasury Department is likely to be able to use “extraordinary measures” to allow the U.S. to meet its obligations until at least mid-summer. The debt limit has been a point of contention in the past, because conservatives have wanted to tie debt-limit increases to spending cuts.

The rules package would also eliminate a provision in House Republicans’ rules packages that the Joint Committee on Taxation issue “dynamic scores” of major legislation that take the macroeconomic impacts of the legislation into account. Republicans have pointed to dynamic scoring to argue that tax cuts pay for themselves at least in part, while Democrats have been more concerned about tax cuts’ impact on the debt.

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles California GOP candidate arrested on stalking charges MORE (D-Calif.), who is expected to win the Speakership, hailed the rules package in a statement.

“By an historic ten million vote margin, the American people went to the polls and asked for a professionally run Congress that would be more transparent, ethical and committed to debating and advancing good ideas no matter where they come from,” she said.

“Our rules package will deliver that Congress, ushering in a new era of clean government that will honor the consensus of the American people — restoring the People’s House to the people.”

Besides budget-related rules, the package also aims to advance Democrats priorities by creating a select committee relating to climate change, authorizing the House to intervene in court cases challenging the legality of ObamaCare and directing the House’s general counsel to look into options for responding to Trump administration rulemaking on work requirements for food stamp recipients.

The package includes changes to the legislative process, such as a provision that requires the text of the bill to be public for a full 72 hours before the House votes on it. It would also change the name of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to the Oversight and Reform Committee and change the name of the Education and the Workforce Committee to the Education and Labor Committee.

Other provisions include changes aimed at strengthening ethics requirements. These include requiring annual ethics training for House members, preventing lawmakers and staff from serving on corporate boards and adding to the official code of conduct a standard that lawmakers should resign from committees and leadership positions if they are charged with felonies.