House Dems charge GOP with skipping one of its new rules

Democrats are accusing the young House Republican majority of violating one its most cherished new rules: the requirement that all legislation include a citation of its Constitutional authority.

In a letter sent Friday, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) urged the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), to refrain from bringing up a bill prohibiting federal funding of abortion because it “was introduced without a valid statement of constitutional authority as required under the new House rules adopted in January.”

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The legislation, the Protect Life Act, would codify a ban on federal funding of abortion in the 2010 healthcare law, and it would prevent the government from withholding funds from hospitals that refuse to perform abortions. The health subcommittee on the energy and commerce panel approved the bill on Friday, but only after an objection over its constitutionality by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) was turned aside.

A spokesman for the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), said the required statement of constitutional authority was filed when the measure was introduced. “Everything’s been done according to the rules,” the spokesman, Andrew Wimer, said.

The statement reads: “Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant to the following: The Protect Life Act would overturn an unconstitutional mandate regarding abortion in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

The Democrats say the statement is insufficient. “The statement submitted by Mr. Pitts does not identify any specific provision in the Constitution that authorizes Congress to enact his legislation,” wrote Waxman and Pallone, the two senior Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee. “Indeed, it is impossible to divine any constitutional basis for Mr. Pitts’s bill from his statement.”

Waxman and Pallone said Upton should make Pitts reintroduce his bill with a proper statement. Noting the GOP crafted their new rules “with great fanfare" in January, they wrote: “That would send a strong signal that the committee is serious about the requirement that the constitutional basis of legislation be clearly stated before legislation can be considered in committee.”