House

House approves new Dem rules package

The House on Thursday approved a Democratic rules package with just a few defections from progressives despite concerns on the left about the resolution’s “pay-as-you-go” provision.

The rules were approved by a largely party-line vote of 234-197. The House will take up two additional portions of the package in coming days.

Three Republicans, Reps. Tom Reed and John Katko of New York and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) voted for the package. Three Democrats, Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.), Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) voted against it.

{mosads}The architects of the package — which was unveiled by new Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) earlier this week — said it will promote diversity and help fight the deficit.

Under the new rules, lawmakers and House employees are barred from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Members and staff are also be permitted to wear religious headgear in the House chamber.

And the rules allow for the creation of a House Financial Services subcommittee to address diversity in the financial industry.

The rules package also would reinstate the “Gephardt rule,” named after former Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), which would result in the House automatically passing a resolution suspending the debt limit when the chamber adopts a budget resolution.

And it includes some legislative-process reforms, including one that requires bills to be publicly available for 72 hours before the House votes on them.

One budgetary rule faced sharp backlash from progressive members of the caucus, including Khanna and Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Critics argued the “pay-as-you-go” provision, which requires a point of order against any bill that raises the deficit or reduces a surplus, could create additional hurdles in accomplishing their legislative priorities in areas like health care. The rule is able to be waived and emergency funding bills would be exempt.

“I will be voting NO on the Rules package with #PayGo. It is terrible economics. The austerians were wrong about the Great Recession and Great Depression. At some point, politicians need to learn from mistakes and read economic history,” Khanna tweeted Wednesday.

But many other progressive lawmakers voted for the rules, despite their concerns over pay-as-you-go. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said they would vote for the rules package because they received assurances that pay-go could be waived.

“Chairman McGovern and House Leadership have committed to us that PAYGO will not be an impediment to advancing key progressive priorities in the 116th Congress,” Pocan and Jayapal said in a statement Wednesday.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said voting against the House Democrats’ rules “is a vote to let Mick Mulvaney make across the board cuts, unilaterally reversing Democratic initiatives and funding increases.” Mulvaney is now the president’s chief of staff.

McGovern praised the package for its inclusion of ideas from members from different factions of the caucus, adding he thinks it should serve as an example for other branches of government.

“The Senate will work its will and the president may still reach for his phone to tweet insults and name-call. But we can and we should be the example of how Congress should operate,” he said during debate on the floor. “And I’m proud that this Democratic majority has developed a historic rules package that will immediately help restore integrity to this institution.”

Rules Committee ranking member Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said while there are elements of the rules package he’s supportive of, he feels it prioritizes Democratic goals and therefore he can’t support it.
“There are some good, bipartisan ideas in this package for improving the institution but on the whole, the package reflects only Democrat priorities and for that reason, I will be opposing it,” he said on the floor.

While the Democrats’ rules largely lack Republican support, Reed, who is co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, bucked his party’s leadership and joined Democrats in voting for it on the floor.

“This is a step in the right direction, and I want to show that it’s time for both sides of the aisle to set aside this partisanship and start working together,” Reed told The Washington Post on Wednesday. “I’m glad to support them.”

Two additional portions of House Democrats’ rules package will be considered in the near future. A portion to establish a select committee on modernizing Congress is expected to be considered Friday, and a portion authorizing Pelosi to intervene in court cases involving ObamaCare is expected to be considered next week.

Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, offered a motion to refer the rule governing the rules package to a select committee, in an effort to make permanent the increased standard deduction and expanded child tax credit contained in President Trump’s tax law. But House Democrats approved a motion to table Brady’s motion.

—Niv Elis contributed.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Brian Fitzpatrick Congressional Progressive Caucus Donald Trump House rules House Rules Committee John Katko Kevin Brady Mark Pocan Mick Mulvaney Nancy Pelosi pay-as-you-go pay-go PAYGO Pramila Jayapal Ro Khanna Tom Cole Tom Reed Tulsi Gabbard United States House of Representatives
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