A Retrospective of House Rules Changes Since the 110th Congress is the second of two reports on rules changes adopted by the House at the beginning of a new Congress. By practice, the majority party organizes the House. The majority elects the House's Speaker, chairs its committees, holds majorities on its committees, selects its officers, and manages its legislative agenda. One of the majority's prerogatives is writing the House's rules and using its majority status to effect the chamber's rules on the day the new House convenes.1 Although each new House largely adopts the chamber rules that existed in the previous Congress, each new House also adopts changes to those rules. It is a feature of the House, but not of the Senate, that it adopts rules at the convening of each Congress.2
The first report in this series, A Retrospective of House Rules Changes from the 104th Congress through the 109th Congress,3examined the sources of the extensive rules changes made when Republicans won the majority in the House after 40 years of Democratic control and presented the Republicans' critique of Democratic management of the House. It then grouped the changes made in rules resolutions from the six Congresses in which the Republicans organized the House into five broad areas—committees, chamber and floor, budget legislation, administration of the House, and ethics standards. These five broad areas were further subdivided, with the changes grouped by subject or by Congress and explained. The Democratic critique of Republican management of the House during these six Congresses was covered in that report.
This second report in the series picks up with the new Democratic majority in the 110th and 111th Congresses and the Republican majority in the 112th, 113th, 114th and 115th Congresses (the Congresses convening in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017, respectively). It first presents the Democratic critique of Republican management of the House during the 104th through the 109th Congresses; the Republican critique of Democratic management of the House during the 110th and 111th Congresses; and Democratic amendments proposed to Republican rules packages in the 112th, 113th, 114th, and 115th Congresses. The report then groups changes made in rules resolutions from the 110th through the 115th Congresses into five broad subject areas—committees, chamber and floor, budgetary legislation, administration of the House, and ethics standards. These five broad areas are again further subdivided, with the changes grouped by subject or Congress, and explained.
The two principal parts of this report reflect its two principal purposes. The first part analyzes the critique by Democrats of Republican management of the House through the 109th Congress, the critique by Republicans of Democratic management of the House in the 110th and 111th Congresses, and Democratic policy differences with the Republican majority presented during rules debates in the 112th, 113th, 114th, and 115th Congresses. In drafting House rules when Democrats took the majority in the 110th Congress and Republicans in the 112th Congress, each party drew on its critique. The purpose of this part of the report is to examine these sources of House rules changes.
The second part of the report organizes changes made in the six rules resolutions, and briefly explains the changes in language more readily understood than the language of the rules resolutions. These changes were included in the rules resolutions adopted at the beginning of the 110th through the 115th Congresses, separate orders adopted in conjunction with the rules resolutions, and Speakers' policy announcements made at the convening of each of these Congresses.4 The major topical headings for this part of the report are as follows:
Each of these major headings is further subdivided by topic or by Congress. The purpose of this part of the report is to catalogue and briefly explain by topic—regardless of the location of a topic in one or more rules—specific changes to House rules affecting committees or the House floor in the 110ththrough the 115th Congresses. Changes affecting budget legislation, House administration, and ethics are arranged by Congress.
This report supplements the official cumulation of rules changes, the House Rules and Manual. This volume, printed in each Congress to reflect adoption of a rules resolution, contains the provisions of House rules. For each rule, it also contains the House parliamentarian's notes describing changes to the rule (or to specific clauses within a rule) and decisions of presiding officers and the House based upon the rule.5 Rules in the House Rules and Manual are arranged by rule number.6
Citations in this report are generally only to the clause of a rule at the time a change was made; rules numbers are stable from Congress to Congress and clause numbers are also generally stable. Changes to the numbering of clauses, paragraphs, and subparagraphs may be found in the parliamentarian's notes.7
This report does not describe all of the actions taken during each Congress that effected permanent and temporary organizational, procedural, administrative, and other changes in the operation of the House. Because the report's purpose is to catalogue the changes made at the convening of a new House, it examines all rules changes and separate orders in the biennial rules resolutions and in the Speaker's biennial announcement of the Speaker's policies interpreting or implementing the rules where the Speaker has discretion.
In addition to changes made through rules resolutions, changes to rules and procedures are also made through orders and freestanding legislation, as provisions of bills or resolutions, and in report language on legislation and in joint explanatory statements accompanying conference reports.8 Legislative branch appropriations bills and budgetary legislation contain organizational, procedural, and other changes that are temporary or permanent. (References to selected freestanding bills and resolutions are provided in footnotes in this report.) So-called fast-track or expedited House procedures are included in legislation that otherwise addresses a policy matter.9 Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference rules and decisions have also had an impact on how specific House rules (such as rules on suspension of the rules and on committee assignment limits) are implemented.10 In a few instances in this report, changes made by means other than a House rules resolution are described, where necessary to understand changes made in one or more rules resolutions.
In the course of its daily proceedings, the House also adopts special rules and unanimous consent agreements that can adapt its rules for the consideration of one or more measures, proceedings on one or more days, or in another way affect the House's conduct of its affairs.
Between the 110th and 115th Congresses, some committees' names were changed. In this report, the names of committees appear as they existed in the specific Congress referenced. In footnotes of this report, Congressional Record references through the 112th Congress are to the bound volumes of the Record. References from the 113th Congress forward are to the daily edition of the Record.
Democratic Critique from the 104th Congress to the 109th Congress
The Democratic critique of the Republicans' management of the House during the Republican majority (104th Congress (1995-1997) through the 109th Congress (2005-2007)) was principally based on two broad concerns. The first—ethics—was a theme throughout the time Republicans held the majority, and Democrats moved quickly when they took majority control in the 110th Congress to change ethics rules and pass new ethics laws. The second—legislative management of the House—was most fully expressed in the 109th Congress, although Democrats made incremental rather than extensive rules changes when they held the majority in the 110th and 111th Congresses.
In the 104th Congress (1995-1997), Democrats offered rules changes that included a new gift rule12 and regulated and limited Members' copyright royalty income.13 In the 105th Congress (1997-1999), a principal issue in debate over the House rules package was the time allowed for the Standards of Official Conduct Committee (now the Ethics Committee) to complete its deliberations on ethics violations admissions by Speaker Newt Gingrich. The Republican rules package provided an end date of January 21, 1997; a Democratic proposal would have removed the time limit.14
In the 106th Congress (1999-2001), Democrats proposed adding a new clause to the Code of Ethics to disallow a Member from intervening in the hiring or dismissal of individuals by lobbying firms or other entities, based on an individual's political affiliation, and another new clause to prohibit a member of the leadership from threatening lobbying firms or other entities on the scheduling of legislation based on an entity's political contributions. These changes were directed in part at perceptions about the so-called K Street Project.15
A Democratic motion related to the rules resolution for the 107th Congress did not address ethics issues.
In the 108th Congress, the Republican rules package incorporated into House rules the provisions of H.Res. 168 (105th Congress), a bipartisan agreement on the operation of the Standards of Official Conduct Committee under which the committee had operated in the 105th, 106th, and 107th Congresses.16 However, the rules package also made three changes to ethics rules that the Democratic motion to commit sought to eliminate. These changes allowed limited income from the practice of medicine by Members who were doctors or dentists, permitted gifts of perishable food to House offices, and exempted so-called charity travel from the gift rule under certain conditions.17
The Republican rules package for the 109th Congress (2005-2007) made changes to procedures of the Standards of Official Conduct Committee, which Democrats attacked as "gutting the ethical standards" of the House.18 While Republicans defended these changes as guaranteeing a right to counsel as a Member would have in a court and as presuming the innocence of a Member,19 Democrats countered that the changes would reduce the ethics committee to a "paper tiger."20 Democrats also criticized rules changes that were dropped from the Republican rules package shortly before its submission to the House, for example, allowing a Member under indictment to continue to serve in a leadership position.21 Democrats sought to strike a provision that dismissed ethics complaints after 45 days if neither the chair nor ranking minority member of the Standards Committee placed on the agenda the issue of establishing an investigative subcommittee, and also sought to prohibit a Member from engaging in employment negotiations with a person who had legislative interests in the current or previous Congress before committees on which the Member served.22 Democratic and public criticism of changes adopted in the rules package continued, and the House in April 2005 reinstated the ethics rules as they previously existed.23
Democrats in the course of the 109th Congress also put forward several programs for changes to ethics standards and practices. In June 2006, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the Democrats' "New Direction for America," which contained a section titled "Honest Leadership and Open Government." The items in this section included—
- banning gifts and travel from lobbyists, and prohibiting travel on corporate jets;
- doubling the "cooling-off period" for lobbying to two years for Members, congressional staff, and executive branch officials, and eliminating floor privileges for former Members who are lobbyists;
- requiring lobbyists to disclose campaign contributions and client fees, increasing the frequency of filings and allowing only electronic filing, requiring certification that no ethics rules violation occurred, and imposing criminal penalties;
- prohibiting Members from pressing lobbying firms over hiring decisions;
- requiring Members to disclose outside employment negotiations;24 and
- allowing only open conference committee meetings; allowing conferees to vote on all agreements made in a conference; requiring disclosure of all earmarks; and ensuring the posting of conference reports in electronic format for 24 hours before House consideration.25
In addition, Democratic Representatives David Obey, Barney Frank, David Price, and Tom Allen unveiled a House rules reform package in December 2005, which they introduced as H.Res. 659 in January 2006 with more than 125 Democratic co-sponsors, including Democratic Leader Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer.26 Provisions of this resolution related to ethics standards and practices included—
- disallowing a Member or congressional staff member from accepting travel unless the individual obtained from the sponsor declarations stating that no lobbyists would participate in the travel or meetings, the sponsor did not engage in lobbying, the sponsor did not employ lobbyists, and the travel was not financed by a corporation unless through contributions deductible under the Internal Revenue Code and disclosed in the declaration;
- requiring a former Member seeking to be present on the House floor to file a written declaration that the former Member had no financial interest in the legislation under consideration and that the former Member would not advocate while on the floor on any matter before the House;
- prohibiting a Member from conditioning an earmark request from another Member based on that Member's vote; and
- disallowing a Member from seeking an earmark unless the Member declared the existence or lack of existence of a financial interest or of control.27
Democrats on three occasions from the 104th through the 109th Congresses, in proposed amendments or motions to commit related to rules resolutions with the commencement of new Congresses, sought a rule requiring party ratios for each committee and subcommittee to reflect the party ratio of the House. Democrats made this proposal in the 104th(1995-1997), 107th (2001-2003), and 108th (2003-2005) Congresses.29
Democrats also periodically proposed changes in rules resolutions that would have affected the consideration of legislation with a budgetary impact. In the 104th Congress, a motion to commit included a proposal to allow individual votes on Budget Act waivers to be included in special rules.30 A proposed amendment in the 105th Congress (1997-1999) would have struck from the rules resolution a provision requiring a "dynamic estimate" of major tax legislation, another provision restricting the content of appropriations bills and amendments to them,31 and a third provision strengthening the right of the majority leader to move that the Committee of the Whole rise and report at the end of the amendment process for an appropriation bill.32
In the 106th Congress (1999-2001), the Democratic motion to commit the rules resolution proposed a pay-as-you-go rule applicable to revenue and direct spending.33 In the 108th Congress (2003-2005), the Democratic motion to commit proposed to strike a provision of the rules resolution that replaced a "tax complexity analysis" that was to appear in Ways and Means Committee reports on legislation with a "macroeconomic impact analysis."34
Democrats' proposed amendments to rules resolutions and their motions to commit regularly sought to eliminate procedural changes included in rules resolutions. In the 105th Congress, their amendment would have struck from the resolution provisions allowing oversight reports in committee to be considered as read if they were available to committee members for 24 hours, requiring nongovernmental witnesses to disclose federal contracts or grants they or their employer received in the current and two previous fiscal years, allowing committees to adopt a rule on extended questioning time for hearings, and reducing to two days from three the time allowed to file views for inclusion in committee reports.35
The Democrats' proposed amendment in the 106th Congress (1999-2001) would have granted voting rights in the Committee of the Whole to the Delegate from the District of Columbia and have reformulated how legislation was drafted so that changes to existing law would be more readily discernible.36
The Democratic motion to commit in the 108th Congress (2003-2005) sought to strike changes to House rules in the Republicans' rules resolution: allowing committees to adopt a rule to postpone certain votes; permitting a motion to instruct conferees during a conference after both 20 calendar days and, as added by the rules resolution, 10 legislative days had tolled; and temporarily extending to Wednesdays the days on which motions to suspend the rules would be in order. The motion to commit also for the first time (in the timeframe covered by this report and the preceding rules changes report) tackled some of the procedures that have come to be identified in recent years by both Democrats and Republicans as transparency issues in the legislative process: honoring the House rule on the availability of conference reports, reducing the number of waivers in special rules, decreasing the number of measures to be considered under the suspension of the rules procedure, allowing more amendments and alternatives to measures considered pursuant to special rules, granting a larger number of open special rules, and allowing more minority-party amendments under structured rules.37
In the 109th Congress (2005-2007), Democrats included just one transparency issue in their motion to commit: proposing the requirement of a two-thirds vote on a special rule that proposed to waive the three-day layover of a measure or conference report.38
The House in the 109th Congress also moved to address the issue of how to continue legislative activities in the event of "catastrophic circumstances" where many Members of the House might be dead or disabled, a concern heightened in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the delivery of anthrax-laced mail to congressional offices in October 2001. The majority's rules resolution included procedures and conditions for establishing a quorum based on a "provisional number of the House." A Democratic Member raised a constitutional point of order against the rules resolution when it was called up for consideration, objecting to the inclusion of the provisional quorum rules on the grounds that it violated Article 1, Section 2, Clause 4 of the Constitution (related to filling House vacancies by election). The House decided on a question of consideration to go forward with the rules resolution.39
In the course of the 109th Congress, Democrats criticized Republican's legislative management of the House and made several wide-ranging proposals for change. In May 2006, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced the House Democrats' "New House Principles: A Congress for All Americans." In June, Leader Pelosi released the Democrats' "New Direction for America." Both documents contained proposals related to the legislative management of the House:
- "There should be regular consultations among the elected leaders of both parties to discuss scheduling, administration and operations of the House."
- "The House should have a predictable, professional, family-friendly schedule that allows the legislative process to proceed in a manner that ensures timely and deliberate dispensation [sic] of the work of the Congress."
- "Regular meetings between Chairs and Ranking Members of committees and staffs should be held."
- "The Minority should control at least one-third of committee budgets and office space."40
Democratic Members began speaking often in the 109th Congress about the need for "regular order" and "transparency" in the House's consideration of legislation, and introduced resolutions to change House rules to that effect.41 In both "A New Direction for America" and "New House Principles," there were proposals or principles regarding the legislative management of the House, which had implications for regular order and transparency:
- "Bills should be developed following full hearings and open subcommittee and committee markups, with appropriate referrals to other committees. Members should have at least 24 hours to examine a bill prior to consideration at the subcommittee level."
- "Bills should generally come to the floor under a procedure that allows open, full, and fair debate consisting of a full amendment process that grants the Minority the right to offer its alternatives, including a substitute."
- "Members should have at least 24 hours to examine bill and conference report text prior to floor consideration. Rules governing floor debate must be reported before 10 p.m. for a bill to be considered the following day."
- "Floor votes should be completed within 15 minutes, with the customary 2-minute extension to accommodate Members' ability to reach the House Chamber to cast their votes. No vote shall be held open in order to manipulate the outcome."
- "House-Senate conference committees should hold regular meetings (at least weekly) of all conference committee Members. All duly-appointed conferees should be informed of the schedule of conference committee activities in a timely manner and given ample opportunity for input and debate as decisions are made toward final bill language."
- "The Suspension Calendar [sic] should be restricted to non-controversial legislation, with minority-authored legislation scheduled in relation to the party ratio in the House."
- "Our New Direction is committed to 'Pay As You Go' budgeting—no more deficit spending. We are committed to auditing the books and subjecting every facet of federal spending to tough budget discipline and accountability, forcing the Congress to choose a new direction and the right priorities for all Americans."42
Earlier in the 109th Congress, in "Broken Promises: The Death of Deliberative Democracy," a document prepared by the House Rules Committee minority staff, committee Ranking Member Louise M. Slaughter presented a number of recommendations, stating:
Adopting these modest recommendations would in no way diminish the majority's ability to move their agenda through the House in a timely way. But they would represent a good first step in restoring to the U.S. House of Representatives, the "People's House," the deliberative process that House Republicans used to support, that is, "the full and free airing of conflicting opinions through hearings, debates, and amendments for the purpose of developing and improving legislation deserving of the respect and support of the people."43 (Emphasis in original, quoting a Republican statement from 1994.)
The bulk of the "Broken Promises" report criticized the types of special rules that had been employed (e.g., the number of minority amendments made in order and the number of closed rules) and the conditions under which special rules had been reported from the Rules Committee (e.g., frequent use of emergency meetings that were allowed by the Rules Committee's rules). The report concluded with five recommendations:
- "Open up the process by allowing more serious amendments"—" ... [The Republican leadership] should allow ... serious amendments that enjoy the support of a 'substantial number of Members' to come to the House floor for debate and up-or-down votes.... "
- "Allow more bills to be considered under open rules"—" ... increase the percentage of bills [the Republican leadership] allows to be debated under an open rules process, and decrease the percentage of bills it jams through the House under closed rules.... "
- "More Consideration of Major, Controversial Legislation and Fewer Suspension Bills"—"Instead of using the suspension of the rules procedure to crowd out debate on major legislation, the Republican leadership … should expand both debate time and quantity of amendments on bills it considers under special rules by restricting suspensions to Mondays and Tuesdays."
- "Fewer late-night or early-morning 'emergencies' and more regular order"—"The House Rules Committee should only use the 'emergency meeting' procedure in [a] small number of cases.... Regular order should be the rule, not the exception.... "
- "Give Members three days to read conference reports"—"The Rules Committee and Republican leadership should end its practice of granting 'blanket waivers' to conference reports.... "44
Representative Slaughter and the other Democratic members of the Rules Committee—Representatives James McGovern, Alcee Hastings, and Doris Matsui—also introduced a resolution (H.Res. 686) to "restore transparency, accountability, and oversight."45 The resolution proposed to change House rules in a number of ways:
- requiring disclosure of scope violations in a conference report, prohibiting special rules from waiving points of order against such violations, and providing for disposition of scope violations by a question of consideration;46
- prohibiting a special rule that waives the three-day layover rule applicable to conference reports, and allowing disposition of a point of order against such a waiver by a question of consideration;
- prohibiting the consideration of a conference report if certain procedures were violated, with disposition of a point of order by a question of consideration;
- requiring a roll-call vote on final agreement of conferees to a conference report, and publication of that vote in the joint explanatory statement;
- changing to 24 hours from one day the layover rule applicable to House special rules;
- requiring publication in the Congressional Record of the names of Members voting or changing votes after a roll-call vote has proceeded for more than 30 minutes;
- prohibiting consideration under the suspension of the rules procedure of a measure authorizing or appropriating more than $100 million, and exhorting the Speaker to schedule an equal number of measures under this procedure sponsored by majority and minority Members;
- repealing the Gephardt rule for changing the statutory debt limit;
- allowing a minority amendment to a special rule when offered on the House floor; and
- requiring 24-hour notice of a unanimous consent agreement to alter a special rule adopted by the House.
As also already noted, Democratic Representatives David Obey, Barney Frank, David Price, and Tom Allen unveiled a House rules reform package in December 2005, which they introduced as H.Res. 659 in January 2006.47 Provisions of the resolution related to the legislative management of the House included—
- limiting roll-call votes to 20 minutes unless both parties' floor managers or leaders agreed to a longer time for voting;
- allowing the chair or ranking minority member of a committee to offer the committee-reported version of legislation as a preferential amendment if a special rule makes another version in order;
- a rule waiving points of order against a measure must waive the same points of order against an amendment requested by the minority leader;
- printed copies of a measure to be considered pursuant to a special rule and of conference reports must be available 24 hours before the House may begin consideration;
- the House may not go to conference with the Senate on an appropriations bill unless the Senate expressed its differences in the form of numbered amendments;
- conference discussion of disagreements must occur in an open meeting, and House conferees must vote by record vote in an open meeting on the conference agreement;
- the House may not consider a conference report that "differs in a material way" from the agreement approved by House conferees;
- the House may not consider a reconciliation measure that would increase the size of the budget deficit, unless agreed to by the majority and minority leaders and by a vote of two-thirds of the House;
- extending Budget Act points of order to unreported legislation considered by the House;
- disallowing a bill or conference report containing revenue provisions from being filed until the Joint Committee on Taxation had identified tax expenditures in the measure; and
- prohibiting the House from adjourning sine die unless "during at least 20 weeks of the session, a quorum call or recorded vote was taken on at least 4 of the weekdays…."48
Congressional procedures and practices were also an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. As a presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama made an address in Green Bay, WI, on September 22, 2008, articulating reform issues, including what he termed "political reform"; he mentioned these proposals subsequently at other events. Candidate Obama addressed some matters that affected the rules and practices of Congress:
As President, I will make it impossible for Congressmen or lobbyists to slip pork-barrel projects or corporate welfare into laws when no one is looking because, when I am President, meetings where laws are written will be more open to the public. No more secrecy.... When there's a bill that ends up on my desk as President, you the public will have five days to look online and find out what's in it before I sign it, so that you know what your government's doing.... When there's a tax bill being debated in Congress, you will know the names of the corporations that would benefit and how much money they would get, and we will put every corporate tax break and every pork-barrel project online for every American to see. You will know who asked for them, and you can decide whether your Representative is actually representing you.49
Presidential candidate Senator John McCain made congressional earmarks an issue in the 2008 campaign and proposed their elimination.50
Republican Critique in 110th and 111th Congresses
Democratic control of the House in the last four years of the 21st century's first decade was brief compared to Democratic control before the 104th Congress and to Republican control from the 104th Congress through the 109th Congress.51 Democratic leaders nonetheless established patterns of managing the House that Republicans critiqued, campaigned on, and eventually responded to when they claimed the majority in the 112th Congress.
In the 110th Congress (2007-2009), Republicans sought through two procedural means to change the special rule (H.Res. 5) providing for consideration of the rules resolution (H.Res. 6). First, they proposed an amendment to the special rule, which was not in order once the previous question was moved. The amendment proposed to write into House rules the legislative components of the Democrats' New House Principles, as explained above. Second, Republicans offered a motion to commit the rules resolution in order to add three prohibitions on special rules that were intended to protect changes Republicans had made during their majority. These prohibitions would have disallowed special rules from waiving the automatic yeas and nays on appropriations measures, measures increasing federal income tax rates, and concurrent resolutions on the budget; the requirement for a three-fifths vote on a measure increasing federal income tax rates; and the disallowance of retroactive federal income tax rate increases.52
In the 111th Congress (2009-2011), Republicans again sought to preserve in House rules some of the changes they had made in House rules during their majority. They offered a motion to commit the rules resolution (H.Res. 5) to retain term limits on committee chairs, which the Democratic rules resolution proposed to eliminate. The Republicans' motion would also have struck changes to the House rule concerning the motion to recommit proposed in the Democratic rules resolution.53
Republicans' principal critique during the 110th and 111th Congresses concerned the majority leadership's limiting of opportunities for Member input in the manner in which Democratic leaders managed the House floor, a criticism Democrats had also made of Republican legislative management of the House during the Republican majority. Republicans criticized the number of bills (or legislative texts) that were brought to the floor without committee consideration, the limited number of amendments allowed under structured rules, the number of closed rules, use of procedures that obviated the opportunity to offer the motion to recommit, and the replacement of conference consideration by amendments between the houses.54
Republicans also criticized the Rules Committee's Democratic majority for their procedural implementation of the majority leadership's legislative strategy:
They have rewritten much of the major legislation passed by this Congress, sometimes in the middle of the night. They engineered the exclusion of opposing viewpoints. They steered around the regular legislative process to support a majority driven by partisan concerns.55
When the Democratic leadership in 2009 moved to end the consideration of general appropriation bills under open special rules or the open amendment process allowed by House rules, the event triggered additional Republican criticism of Democrats' legislative management of the House. They argued that a "central tenet of the [appropriations process] was that every member would have the opportunity to bring their issue before the House…."56
Republicans also complained regularly on the House floor of receiving legislative proposals at the last minute.57 In addition, both Democratic and Republican Members introduced resolutions to change House rules for the purpose of increasing transparency and adherence to regular order in the legislative management of the House.58
Republican leaders looked ahead as the 2010 elections drew near to describe how they might manage the House should their party be the majority. In speaking to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Republican Leader John A. Boehner proposed a return to the House's regular order for developing and considering legislation:
- allow more floor debate and amendments, with a presumption that legislation will be considered under an open rule;
- make committee-reported legislation the legislative vehicle for floor debate and amendment;
- follow House layover rules for legislation; and
- require committees to give sufficient notice of measures to be marked up, to webcast proceedings and post transcripts online, and to promptly post online amendments adopted and votes cast.59
Leader Boehner observed in his speech:
Woodrow Wilson once said that 'Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, while Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work.' If Wilson went from committee room to committee room today, he might take that statement back. Because the truth is, much of the work of committees has been co-opted by the leaderships. In too many instances, we no longer have legislators; we just have voters.60
Similarly, Republican Whip Eric Cantor wrote about the centrality of committee work:
The legislative agenda ought to reflect the importance of hearings and oversight. Setting aside specific time each week for committees to meet without interruption from floor activities ... would provide a protected, regular time for committees to conduct their important business.61
In addressing "transparency" in committee proceedings, Republican Leader Boehner drew on his experience as a committee chair:
At Education and Workforce, we operated with a set of transparency rules that encouraged deliberation and limited problems: First, we gave at least three days' notice on all bills. Actually, we normally went above and beyond this standard, giving about a week's notice on each bill, but three days was the rule. That gave Members plenty of time to gain an appropriate depth of knowledge and scrub each bill for potential landmines.62
Democrats' Proposed Rules Changes, 112th Congress
The 2010 elections again resulted in a switch in majority in the House, beginning with the 112th Congress (2011-2013). In response to the Republican rules package for the new Congress (H.Res. 5), Democrats proposed an amendment to the rules resolution, which could not be offered after the previous question was moved. This amendment would have overturned the rules resolution provision exempting the extension of certain tax laws from the operation of the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act. The ranking minority member-designate of the Budget Committee argued:
[T]his plan guts the existing pay-as-you-go rule that limits mandatory spending and tax breaks that add to our deficits. It also creates a mechanism to do an end run against the pay-as-you-go law recently signed by President Obama that will limit increases in our national debt. … [T]he rule being proposed … eliminates provisions that say you can't add to the deficit by creating special interest tax breaks. The proposal before us eliminates that limitation.63
A Democratic Member offered a motion to commit the House rules resolution to add a requirement that a Member make a decision on participation in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program within 15 days of taking office and that the Member's choice be publicly disclosed; the motion was defeated.64
Earlier, after the rules resolution had been called up, the Delegate from the District of Columbia made a motion to refer the resolution to a select committee to study the constitutionality of the provision deleting Delegates' voting rights in the Committee of the Whole from House rules. The House voted to table the motion.65
Majority and Minority Policy Differences in the 113th Congress (2013-2015) Rules Debate
Unlike the Democratic critiques in the 104th through 109th Congresses, the Republican critique in the 110th and 111th Congresses, and the Democrats' proposed rule changes in the 112th Congress, the Democrats responded to the Republican rules package in the 113th Congress (H.Res. 5) by proposing amendments to the rules package that related to potentially different policy stances of the two parties rather than to changes in the proposed rules.
On behalf of her Democratic colleagues, the Democratic floor manager of the rules resolution, Rules Committee Ranking Minority Member Louise Slaughter, urged the House to defeat the previous question motion when it was offered so that the minority could propose an amendment to the rules resolution. The amendment would have made in order the consideration of a joint resolution containing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United and other court cases to allow Congress and the states to limit political contributions.66 Representative Slaughter argued:
In the years since the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the Citizens United case, unlimited amounts of money from billionaires and hidden special interests have flooded our elections. Led by secret political spending that is hidden from public view, wealthy special interests have tried to buy our airwaves, to fund outrageously expensive campaigns, and to launch dishonest political attacks to persuade the outcome of countless elections. ... [T]his amendment would finally remove the unlimited and untracked political donations from our electoral system.67
The Democrats' proposed amendment could not be offered after the previous question was moved.
Thereafter, a Democratic Member offered a motion to commit the House rules resolution in order to include an amendment to it to reduce waiting times in voting lines and to promote early voting opportunities. The motion to commit with the amendment was rejected. The question was then taken on the rules resolution and the resolution was agreed to.68
Earlier in the day, as in the 112th Congress, after the rules resolution had been called up, the Delegate from the District of Columbia made a motion to refer the resolution to a select committee to study the denial in House rules of Delegates' voting rights in the Committee of the Whole. The House voted to table the motion.69
Majority and Minority Policy Differences in the 114th Congress (2015-2017) Rules Debate
In the 114th Congress (2015-2017), Democrats again responded to the Republican rules package (H.Res. 5) by proposing amendments to it that related to potentially different policy stances of the two parties rather than to changes in the proposed rules.70
On behalf of her Democratic colleagues, the Democratic floor manager of the rules resolution, Rules Committee Ranking Minority Member Louise Slaughter, urged the House to defeat the previous question motion when it was offered so that the minority could propose an amendment to the rules resolution. The amendment would have made in order House consideration of a bill to "modify the rules relating to inverted corporations and to transfer the resulting revenues to the Highway Trust Fund" to make additional money available for infrastructure spending.71 Representative Slaughter explained the amendment thus:
It is time to stop rewarding companies that move overseas and, instead, use those dollars to create good-paying jobs here at home and rebuild our Nation's crumbling infrastructure. By closing this loophole and ending the so-called tax inversions, we would raise an estimated $33.6 billion to invest in our roads, railways, and bridges which are falling apart all over the country.72
The Democrats' proposed amendment could not be offered after the previous question was moved. In the course of the rules debate, however, Democratic Members, including Democratic leaders, spoke about specific economic policy legislation that they would propose in the 114th Congress.73
After the previous question had been moved and debate thereby ended, a Democratic Member offered a motion to commit the House rules resolution in order to include an amendment making it in order for the House to consider the CEO-Employee Paycheck Fairness Act.74 The text of this measure, included in the motion to commit, limited corporate deductions for executive compensation with the purpose of addressing "wage stagnation." The motion to commit with the amendment was rejected.75 The question was then taken on the resolution and the resolution was agreed to.76
Earlier in the day, once the rules resolution had been called up, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton made a motion to refer the resolution to a select committee to study the failure of House rules to provide Delegates' voting rights in the Committee of the Whole. The House voted to table the motion.77
Democratic Critique of the Rules Resolution in the 115th Congress (2017-2019)
Over the course of the preceding three Congresses, with Republicans as the majority party in the House, Democrats consistently complained about the number of closed and structured special rules brought to the floor and about specific Democratic amendments not made in order for floor consideration.78 During the 114th Congress, during debate on some of the special rules reported by the Rules Committee, Democratic Members also argued against bifurcated rules79 and in favor of the consideration of other public policy matters or legislation.80 Rules Committee Ranking Minority Member Louise Slaughter reiterated this criticism during debate on the 115th Congress rules resolution (H.Res. 5),81 concluding by saying, "we invite you to bring regular order back to this House and to bring back the barrel of ideas."82
A number of Democrats argued against three rules changes made in the rules resolution. The first change, which generated a number of remarks, allowed the sergeant at arms to levy a fine against a Member who breached House decorum with use of an electronic device and, further, added specific conduct that would be considered disorderly and subject to referral to the Ethics Committee. (See, below, "Decorum in the Chamber: Conduct and Electronic Devices.")
The Republican majority included the change in the rules resolution in response, at least in part, to Democratic Members' 25-hour "sit-in" on the House floor, spanning June 22-23, 2016. With House cameras turned off during recesses, the participating Members used social media and live-streaming to publicize the sit-in, the purpose of which was to demand votes on anti-gun violence legislation following the 49-person massacre in an Orlando nightclub on June 12.83
Democratic Members argued that the change unconstitutionally allowed an officer of the House to punish a Member, lacked due process protections, abridged Members' rights to debate, and sought to impose a "gag rule" on Members seeking action on legislation supported by many citizens but opposed by majority leadership.84
Once debate on the rules resolution concluded and the previous question had been ordered, Representative John Lewis offered a motion to commit the rules resolution to strike this change from it. The motion to commit was rejected.85
Another change that generated a number of remarks was a standing order that initially appeared as a standing order in the House rules resolution for the 112th Congress and in budget resolutions in the two succeeding Congresses. (See, below, "112th Congress" and "115th Congress" under "Rules Changes Affecting Budgetary Legislation.") The standing order included in the 115th Congress rules resolution contained an exemption from the standing order that would affect legislation to repeal or reform the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act.86
Democrats attacked the policy implications of the exemption. They argued that this exemption would allow repeal or reform of the health care law to be done without regard to an expected several-trillion-dollar impact on the federal deficit and that repeal would take away health coverage from many people and drive up premiums for all, harm Medicare recipients in a number of ways, and adversely affect the solvency of Medicare.87
Ranking Member Slaughter announced during debate that she would offer an amendment to the rules resolution, urging Members to defeat the previous question so that she could offer the amendment. The amendment would have added a new paragraph to Rule XXI ("Restrictions on Certain Bills"). The amendment would have prohibited the House from considering a bill, joint resolution, amendment, or conference report that adversely affected health benefits in one of seven ways or that reduced taxes for very wealthy taxpayers or increased taxes for 80% of the population that was comparatively the least wealthy. Representative Slaughter explained, "[I]f we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to the resolution that would establish a point of order against any legislation that would undo the requirements of the Affordable Care Act...."88
The House ordered the previous question, stymieing the offering of the amendment.
The third change also appeared in the rules resolution as a standing order. The change reintroduced the Holman Rule, which had been deleted from House rules in 1983.89 The rule allows legislation on an appropriations bill when the effect of the amendment is to "retrench expenditures." (See, below, "115th Congress" under "Rules Changes Affecting Budgetary Legislation.") Democrats argued that the rule allows the majority party to circumvent the legislative process in order to "fire or cut the pay" of individual federal employees or groups of employees.90
Following debate and disposition of the previous question motion and the motion to commit, the House adopted the rules resolution.91
Earlier in the day, once the rules resolution had been called up on the House floor, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton made a motion to refer the resolution to a select committee to study the failure of House rules to provide Delegates' voting rights in the Committee of the Whole. The House voted to table the motion.92
Rules Changes Affecting Committees
This section identifies changes made to the committee system on opening day of the 110th, 111th, 112th, 113th, 114th, and 115th Congresses, pursuant to the resolutions adopting amendments to the rules of the House and establishing separate orders, and pursuant to the Speaker's announcements.93 Rules, sections of rules, and Speakers' policy announcements appear when a change occurs. The section is organized around three topics: (1) structure and organization, including committee chairmanships and committee assignments, committee jurisdiction, and subcommittees; (2) procedure, including committee meetings, committee reports, oversight, and voting; and (3) staff and funding.94
The 110th (2007-2009) and 111th (2009-2011) Congresses were organized by the Democrats; the 112th (2011-2013), 113th (2013-2015), 114th (2015-2017), and 115th (2017-2019) Congresses were organized by the Republicans.
Structure and Organization95
Assignments and Size96
In the 112th Congress, H.Res. 5 established the size of the Intelligence Committee at not more than 20 members, of which not more than 12 members could be from the same party.97 (Amended clause 11 of Rule X.)
In the 114th Congress, H.Res. 5 increased the size of the Intelligence Committee to not more than 22 members, of which not more than 13 could be from the same party. (Amended clause 11(a) of Rule X.)
In the 111th Congress, H.Res. 5 struck the chair term limit from House rules.99 (Amended clause 5 of Rule X.)
In the 111th Congress, H.Res. 5 allowed a Member to serve a second consecutive term as chair or ranking minority member of the Budget Committee, even if in doing so the Member would exceed the limit on service on the committee. (Amended clause 5 of Rule X.)
In the 112th Congress, H.Res. 5 restored the standing committee chair term limit: service in not more than three consecutive Congresses as a committee or subcommittee chair, not counting service for part of a Congress. The change included an exemption from the term limit for the Rules Committee chair; the Rules chair had also been exempted from the prior term limit. (Amended clause 5 of Rule X.)
Committee and Commission Creation or Retention
As part of its committee expense resolution in the 110th Congress, the House created a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.100 The select committee was not given legislative authority, but was charged with investigating and making recommendations "to reduce the dependence of the United States on foreign sources of energy and achieve substantial and permanent reductions in emissions and other activities that contribute to climate change and global warming."101 In the rules resolution for the 111th Congress, H.Res. 5, the House adopted a standing order continuing the existence of the select committee in the 111th Congress.102
H.Res. 5 in the 111th Congress also continued the existence of two commissions: the House Democracy Assistance Commission103 and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.104 The following changes were made in the authority of the Lantos commission for the 111th Congress:
- In addition to collaborating with the staff of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the commission could collaborate with the staff of other relevant committees; and
- The commission was entitled, through the Committee on Foreign Affairs, to use the same House resources as the Committee on Foreign Affairs was entitled to use.
H.Res. 5 also continued the existence of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). OCE had been created in the previous Congress to review allegations of misconduct against Members, officers, and employees of the House; to conduct an investigation pursuant to criteria included in the office's establishing resolution; and, pursuant to criteria in the establishing resolution, to refer its recommendations to the Standards of Official Conduct Committee.105 The continuation also provided OCE with authority to hire consultants as if it were a standing committee of the House.
Separate orders contained in H.Res. 5 in the 112th Congress continued the existence but changed the name of the House Democracy Assistance Commission to the House Democracy Partnership, and continued the existence of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission with the same changes in authority as made in the 112th Congress.
Another separate order continued the Office of Congressional Ethics, again with authority to hire consultants as if it were a standing committee of the House.
H.Res. 5 of the 113th Congress contained a separate order that continued the existence of the House Democracy Partnership and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, as modified in the 111th Congress.
Another separate order in the 113th Congress continued the Office of Congressional Ethics, again with authority to hire consultants as if it were a standing committee of the House. In addition, two provisions related to term limits for board members were made inoperative for the 113th Congress.
H.Res. 5 of the 114th Congress contained a separate order that continued the existence of the House Democracy Partnership and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, as modified in the 111th Congress.
Another separate order in the 114th Congress continued the Office of Congressional Ethics, again with authority to hire consultants as if it were a standing committee of the House. In addition, two provisions related to term limits for board members were made inoperative for the 114th Congress. The separate order also contained two other additions. First, an individual who is the subject of a preliminary review or a second-phase review must be informed of a right to counsel. The exercise of that right may not reflect negatively on the individual. Second, the Office of Congressional Ethics may not take an action that would deny an individual a constitutional right or protection.
Another separate order continued the existence of the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi.106 In the separate order, the select committee was allowed to adopt a committee rule or motion permitting members to question a witness for 10 minutes.107
In the course of the 114th Congress, the House and Senate created a Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies for the 2017 inauguration of the President and Vice President (S.Con.Res. 28) and authorized the use of the Capitol for the inaugural ceremonies (S.Con.Res. 29).108
With separate orders in H.Res. 5 in the 115th Congress, the rules resolution continued the House Democracy Partnership, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and the Office of Congressional Ethics unchanged from the separate orders adopted in the 114th Congress, described just above.
H.Res. 6 in the 110th Congress changed the names of five committees (amendments to Rule X):
- Education and Labor, from Education and Workforce,
- Foreign Affairs, from International Relations,
- Natural Resources, from Resources,
- Oversight and Government Reform, from Government Reform, and
- Science and Technology, from Science.
H.Res. 5 in the 112th Congress changed the names of three committees (amendments to Rule X):
- Education and the Workforce, from Education and Labor,
- Ethics, from Standards of Official Conduct, and
- Science, Space, and Technology, from Science and Technology.
In the 114th Congress, H.Res. 5 corrected the name in rules citations of the Joint Committee on Taxation, which appeared in House rules as the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation, its original name dating to the Revenue Act of 1926. The committee's name had been changed in the Tax Reform Act of 1976.109 (Amended clause 3(h) of Rule XIII and clause 11(a) of Rule XXII.)
In the 114th Congress, a requirement for inclusion in committee rules was moved by H.Res. 5 from one clause to another. Committees' rules are explicitly required to address audio and video coverage of a committee's proceedings, as listed in Rule XI, clause 4(f). Language appearing in subparagraph (f) requiring committees to adopt audio-video coverage rules was moved to Rule XI, clause 2(a), which requires committees to adopt written rules. (Amended clause 2(a) and clause 4(f) of Rule XI.)
The rules resolution made an additional change to Rule XI, clause 4. A wordier statement on the prohibition of partisan political use of audio and video coverage of committees' proceedings was replaced with more succinct text mirroring the prohibition on use of House broadcasts. (Amended clause 4(b) of Rule XI.)
References in the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Committee in Rule X, clause 11 were made consistent by H.Res. 6 with changes in the organization of intelligence agencies pursuant to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.111 For example, "Director of National Intelligence" replaced "Director of Central Intelligence" at several places in clause 11.
The Speaker's announced policies for the 110th Congress did not include the previous Speaker's statement on jurisdictional issues, principally related to the memorandum of understanding between the Energy and Commerce and Financial Services Committees and referrals to the then-new Homeland Security Committee.112
An addition was made to the oversight authority of the Homeland Security Committee in H.Res. 5 so that the committee's oversight extended to all government programs and organizations related to homeland security that "fall within [the committee's] primary legislative jurisdiction." The change was intended to clarify that agencies' operating programs within the committee's legislative jurisdiction have a reporting relationship with it, in addition to their reporting relationship with other committees.113 (Amended clause 3 of Rule X.)
The House Administration Committee gained jurisdiction over the "management of services" provided to the House by the architect of the Capitol. Services of the architect within the jurisdiction of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee remained with that committee. (Amended clause 4 of Rule X.)
H.Res. 5 assigned a new duty to the House Administration Committee—to promulgate standards for making House and House committee documents publicly available.114 (Amended clause 4 of Rule X.) H.Res. 5 further provided that, if a document was available in electronic form at a location designated by the committee, the document would be considered available to Members as required by House rules.115 (Added new clause 3 to Rule XXIX.) A separate order provided an interim order pending the promulgation of regulations by the committee. The interim order stated that posting on the Committee on Rules website would serve the publicly available requirement for the House floor and each committee's majority website would serve that purpose for a committee. (See also, below, "114th Congress" under "Rules Changes Affecting the Administration of the House.")
The rules resolution also added to the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee: "Cemeteries administered by the Department of Defense." The Veterans' Affairs Committee's jurisdiction over veterans' cemeteries was not affected. (Amended clause 1 of Rule X.)
H.Res. 5 added "general management" to "organization and administration" of the Department of Homeland Security to the Committee on Homeland Security's jurisdictional statement. This change was intended to clarify the committee's existing jurisdiction over the department, but not alter the existing pattern of bill referrals or oversight jurisdiction.116
H.Res. 5 also changed a word in the jurisdictional statement of the Committee on Natural Resources to "Insular areas" from "Insular possessions." This change conformed the language used in the committee to that used by the Departments of State and Interior. This change was also intended to clarify that the committee's jurisdiction included the Freely Associated States (the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau). The Freely Associated States, while independent nations under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Affairs Committee, also have a special relationship with the United States through the Compact of Free Association.117 (Amended clause 1 of Rule X.)
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