January 8, 2019

116th Congress: House of Representatives New Rules Summary

Rich Meade

The Democratic Majority has released their package of new rules for the House of Representatives. The resolution making these rules changes was divided into three titles, with the first reinstating rules from the last Congress with a number of key changes.  Below is a summary of those changes.

Delegates and Resident Commissioner – Allows the delegates (representing the District of Columbia and U.S. territories) and the resident commissioner (representing Puerto Rico) to vote when the House is in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union (“Committee of the Whole”). This is the committee comprised of all Members of the House of Representatives that is used to consider most legislation and allows for more expedited procedures than if the legislation is considered in the House. Typically, bills are amended in the Committee of the Whole and then reported to the full House for a vote on final passage.  Delegates and the resident commissioner first earned the right to vote in the Committee of the Whole in the 103rd Congress, but Republicans changed the rule back in the 104th Congress when they took control of the House.

Speakership – Changes the rule allowing any Member to move to vacate the office of the Speaker of the House to only be privileged if it is brought by the direction of the Democratic Caucus or the Republican Conference making it subject to a majority vote of either political party.

Committee Names – Changes the name of the Committee on Education and the Workforce back to the Committee on Education and Labor. It also changes the name of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Oversight – All of the House committees, with the exception of Appropriations, Rules and Ethics, must report by March 1st of the first year of a Congress to the Committee on Oversight and Reform an oversight plan working in consultation with the minority and committees with overlapping jurisdictions. The Committee on Oversight and Reform must report to the House all of the committees’ oversight plans with any recommendations about how to best coordinate oversight activities by April 15.  It also charges the Committee on Oversight and Reform with oversight of the Executive Office of the President and allows staff of the committee to take depositions without requiring a Member from the committee be present.

Budget Committee – Removes the term limit of four Congresses over a period of six Congresses on service on the House Budget Committee.

Committee Rules – Grants new committee chairs 60 days, rather than the 30 days, to report new committee rules for the committee.

Committee Markups – Requires committees to provide three calendar days, not counting weekends and holidays, notice for a committee markup.

Ethics – Requires Members, delegates and the resident commissioner to receive annual ethics training in addition to the officers and staff of the House. It also authorizes the use of evidence from criminal trials to be used in ethics investigations.

Consensus Calendar – Creates a new Consensus Calendar for the House to be used after March 1 of odd numbered years and before September 30 of even numbered years. This allows the  sponsor of a bill with more than 290 cosponsors to file a motion with the Clerk of the House to place the bill on the Consensus Calendar of the House.

Dynamic Scoring – Eliminates the rule authorizing the use of dynamic scoring which takes into account the macroeconomic feedback effects of legislation.

Discharge Petitions – Grants the Speaker two days to schedule a vote on a bill subject to a discharge petition.

Religious Headdress – Allows religious headdress to be worn on the House floor. The previous rule banning Members from wearing hats on the House floor was thought to also prohibit the display of a hijab on the House floor.

Quorum – Allows delegates and the resident commissioner to count towards a quorum in the Committee of the Whole.

Voting – Places a condition on the use of two-minute and five-minute voting for the Chair to ensure there is ample opportunity for Members to vote.

Budget Authority – Eliminates the prohibition from offering amendments to appropriations bills that increases the overall budget authority in the bill.

Tax Increase – Removes the supermajority requirement for considering bills that would increase Federal income taxes.

Pay-As-You-Go – Makes it not in order to consider any bill, joint resolution, amendment or conference report that increases the budget deficit or reduces the budget surplus.

Discrimination – Broadens the rule prohibiting employment discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Committee Staff – Prohibits sexual relationships between Members and committee staff.

Indicted Members – Any Member indicated or charged with criminal conduct in federal, state or local courts must resign from their committee and leadership positions.

Corporate Boards – Prohibits Members and staff from serving on a corporate board of directors of any public company.

Debt Limit – Returns and updates the old “Gephardt Rule” where the House generates a resolution suspending the debt limit upon passage of a budget resolution. The previous rule only generated the debt limit resolution after passage of a budget resolution conference report where this rule keys it off a House passage of a budget resolution. Under either rule, the Senate still needs to consider and pass the debt limit resolution under a 60-vote threshold.

Deposition Authority – Grants all full committee chairmen, except for the Rules and Intelligence Committees, the authority to order the taking of depositions including pursuant to a subpoena by a Member of the committee or committee counsel.

Limitation on Advance Appropriations – Places a limitation on advance appropriations.

Former Members – Prohibits former Members who are registered lobbyists from using the Members gym in the House.

Machine-Readable Formats – Directs the Committee on House Administration and the Clerk of the House to broaden the availability of machine-readable legislative documents.

Committee Consideration – Prohibits the House from considering bills that are not reported from committee and subject to hearings.

Member Day Hearings – Requires all committees except for the Ethics Committee to hold Member hearing days during the first session of Congress where any Member of the House can testify on matters of jurisdiction to the committee. The Rules Committee can hold Member hearing days during the second session as well.

War Powers Resolution – A motion to discharge a measure pursuant to Sections 6 or 7 of the War Powers Resolution may not be subject to a motion to table.

Budget Matters – Allows for the committee allocations set in the last Congress to stand in this Congress until the next budget resolution is adopted.

Legal Matters – Authorizes the Speaker and the House General Counsel to intervene in the court case challenging constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (Texas v. the United States).  It also allows for the House General Counsel to explore legal matters in challenging a future rulemaking from the Department of Agriculture imposing new work requirements into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Employment Settlements – Requires Members to pay out of their own funds for any employment discrimination settlements.

Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Policies – Requires every Member office to adopt anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and display the rights and protections afforded to employees.

Select Committee on the Climate Crisis – Creates a 15-Member select committee (9 Majority and 6 Minority Members) with no legislative jurisdiction to study, investigate, make findings and policy recommendations on the issue of climate change.

The second title of the rules creates the Select Committee on Modernizing Congress, which is charged with looking at ways to make the House more transparent and accountable and looking at issues such as leadership development, scheduling, and staff diversity and retention. Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA) was named the Chair of the select committee by Speaker Pelosi.

The third title of the rules package formally authorizes the Speaker and General Counsel to intervene in Texas v. United States.