Along with voting to end the government shutdown, House Democrats will focus on passing the new rules package for the House Thursday. The intent of most of the procedurally focused rules is to “restore regular order and bring integrity back to this institution,” said incoming House Rules Chairman James McGovern (D-MA), in a statement explaining the changes. Among parliamentary changes, they’re adding some significant policy-oriented rules. A key one, given a completely unstable and unpredictable executive, is to disarm the debt ceiling. They’ll revive the “Gephardt Rule” from the days of Rep. Dick Gephardt’s tenure decades ago, which automatically raises the debt ceiling when the House passes a budget. It will take away the ability of Trump and the Freedom Caucus types to take the debt ceiling hostage.
They will also include an authorization to intervene in the Texas lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, since the Department of Justice is refusing to defend the law. Additionally, they’re including a provision instructing the House counsel “to immediately explore all possible legal options” to respond to the Trump administration’s power grab to impose more stringent work requirements on people receiving food stamps against the will of Congress. The rules also create a select committee on the climate crisis, and one to consider proposals to “modernize and improve” congressional operations.
There are also some rules to bring the House more fully into the 21st century, including requiring that members accused of sexual harassment pay out of their own pocket to settle claims, banning discrimination in the House on the basis of sexual orientation, and allowing religious headdress—including headscarves, on the floor. They’ll require annual ethics training for all members, as well as setting new rules to prohibit both members and staff from sitting on corporate boards.
Procedural changes included require that a motion to vacate the chair can only be brought with a majority of either the Republican or Democratic conferences. That will hopefully tamp down the chaos the Freedom Caucus maniacs can attempt. Recall, it was a threat from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) to bring up motion to vacate the chair that prompted then-Speaker John Boehner (R-MI) to give up the game. They’ll also revive the rule that requires 72 hours before major legislation gets a vote on the floor.
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