House Republicans are gearing up to vote on proposed rule changes, one of which would amend the former policy requiring ranking members who have been censured to relinquish their post as the top GOP lawmaker on their respective committees if the party is in the minority.
Under current rules, censured members are expected to vacate their chairmanships or ranking member roles regardless of which party is in the majority.
“The chair of a standing, select, joint or ad hoc committee, or subcommittee thereof, who is censured by a vote of the House when the Republican Party is the majority party in the House of Representatives, shall cease to exercise the powers of such position,” the proposed rule reads.
“The Chair of the Republican Conference shall take such steps as may be necessary to facilitate the removal from the position of chair in the House. Vacancies created by this paragraph shall be filled pursuant to the applicable rule. The Conference may waive the provisions of this rule at any time by majority vote.”
The move to change the conference rule has sparked some concern among members who argue that lawmakers should be held accountable for ethics violations regardless of which party is in power. One GOP lawmaker cited Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection We must address the declining rate of startup business launches Shakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' MORE (R-Ariz.), who serves as the ranking member on the Joint Economic Committee and was formally reprimanded on the floor in July for violating campaign finance rules, as an example of someone who could benefit from the change.
“Such actions expose all members of the Republican conference to answer for what the American people hate most about D.C. — that we adopt rules to protect our own while we tell the rest of America in a sanctimonious manner they should be held accountable for such bad behavior,” the lawmaker told The Hill. “Essentially do as we say, but the rules of accountability just don’t apply to members of Congress. Hypocrisy at its worst.”
But proponents of the move said it was not intended to protect any specific members, noting that Democrats have the same standard written in their rules.
Those advocating for the change argue that it’s a necessary step to protect ranking members from losing their positions for politically motivated reasons, making the case that members across the aisle could censure individuals for minor infractions in an attempt to oust them from their roles.
Multiple GOP sources noted that Democrats threatened to censure Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesLIVE COVERAGE: Ways and Means begins Day 2 on .5T package Biden faces unfinished mission of evacuating Americans Nunes sues MSNBC, alleging Rachel Maddow defamed him MORE (Calif.), the top GOP lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee, during the course of the impeachment proceedings, which they cited as an example for a need to update the policy.
“That was a rule from when we were in the majority and the censure was used for legitimate cases. As we saw last Congress, official admonishments are being used as political weapons these days and with the Dems in the majority, we don’t want to give them the opportunity to mess with our conference by forcing a censure vote on the floor,” one senior GOP aide told The Hill.
The change is expected to be debated within the conference before it is ultimately passed. The House GOP conference is slated to vote to ratify the proposed rule on Nov. 17
“That's a valid point that I think needs to be debated within our conference as to what the reason was that proposed change was put in there,” another member told The Hill.
“And once we hear from the reasons why we'll either, you know, agree with those reasons, or will obviously, it won't have enough votes to, to survive an amendment.”