Centrist House Democrats press for committees to follow pay-go rule

Centrist House Democrats press for committees to follow pay-go rule
© Greg Nash

A group of freshman House Democrats — most of whom represent districts that are expected to be competitive in 2020 — on Wednesday urged committee chairs to abide by the House's pay-as-you-go rules to ensure that legislation doesn't add to the deficit.

"We urge you to work with us to ensure that each committee’s legislation is funded with responsible pay-fors that are considered early in the legislative process," the lawmakers wrote in a letter. "We also ask that legislation is not advanced out of committees until it has received a [Congressional Budget Office] score."

Rep. Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsHaaland, Davids included in 'Jeopardy' clue for historic first as Native American congresswomen The Hill's Morning Report - Vulnerable Dems are backing Trump impeachment Vulnerable Democrats signal support for impeachment articles this week MORE (D-Kan.) took the lead on the letter, and it was also signed by Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah), Colin Allred (D-Texas), Cindy AxneCindy Axne Democrats plot new approach to win over rural voters Warren-Sanders dispute thrusts gender into 2020 spotlight Buttigieg picks up Iowa congressman's endorsement ahead of caucuses MORE (D-Iowa), Ed CaseEdward (Ed) CaseMORE (D-Hawaii), Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamHouse Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week The lawmakers who bucked their parties on the war powers resolution MORE (D-S.C.), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week The lawmakers who bucked their parties on the war powers resolution House passes measure seeking to limit Trump on Iran MORE (D-Okla.), Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsHouse votes to temporarily repeal Trump SALT deduction cap Nearly all Democrats expected to back articles of impeachment First-term Democrats push Amash as impeachment manager: report MORE (D-Minn.), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerHouse Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts House passes bills to gain upper hand in race to 5G The biggest political upsets of the decade MORE (D-Va.) and Jeff Van DrewJeff Van DrewOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Social Security emerges as flash point in Biden-Sanders fight | Dems urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency | Trump to sign USMCA next week NJ Rep. Van Drew said he wouldn't vote for Trump weeks before switching parties: report DCCC to run ads tying 11 House Republicans to Trump remarks on entitlements MORE (D-N.J.).

ADVERTISEMENT

With the exception of Case, all of these lawmakers hold seats that had been represented by Republicans prior to the 2018 midterm elections. Most of the signers are members of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, the centrist New Democrat Coalition, or both.

The House adopted a rules package in January that included a "pay-go" provision that establishes a point of order against bills that increase the deficit. The rule can be waived.

The freshman Democrats said in their letter they feel that so far this year, the principles of the pay-go rule "have not been followed throughout the legislative process, particularly as legislation is being considered at the committee level." The lawmakers raised concerns about the fact that bills frequently advance out of committees before they receive a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

"Since there is limited time for a CBO study, members do not have enough time to properly consider the potential costs and pay-fors of the legislation before casting votes," the lawmakers wrote. 

"We understand that legislation referred to multiple committees of jurisdiction can present challenges for committee chairs to identify appropriate offsets or offsets in that respective committee’s jurisdiction in advance of floor consideration," the freshman Democrats added. "In these instances, we encourage the respective committee chairs to work collaboratively and to communicate throughout the legislative process regarding intentions for offsets."

ADVERTISEMENT

Roll Call first reported on the letter

This isn't the first time that centrist Democrats have pressed for the House to adhere more closely to pay-go. In June, the Blue Dogs sent a letter to House Democratic leaders, warning them against disregarding the rule, after the House waived the rule to pass an immigration bill.

But the pay-go rule isn't loved by all House Democrats, with some progressives having expressed concerns that it could make it harder to advance some of their top priorities.

A spokesman for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views on misinformation Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (D-Calif.) said in January that the pay-go rule is necessary because without it, the White House would be able to make unilateral spending cuts that reverse Democratic priorities. Key progressive lawmakers have introduced legislation to repeal the 2010 statute that requires the White House to offset deficit-increasing legislation with mandatory spending cuts.