Sunday, January 20, 2019

House Democrats unveil rules package for 116th Congress

By on January 2, 2019

SAN JUAN – U.S. House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA), incoming chairman of the House Committee on Rules, unveiled the rules for the 116th Congress. The package will be introduced and voted on when the new Congress convenes Thursday.

“By an historic ten million vote margin, the American people went to the polls and asked for a professionally run Congress that would be more transparent, ethical and committed to debating and advancing good ideas no matter where they come from. Our rules package will deliver that Congress, ushering in a new era of clean government that will honor the consensus of the American people – restoring the People’s House to the people,” Pelosi said in a release Wednesday. “These transformational, historic changes will allow Democrats to clean up Congress so that we can deliver results for the American people: lowering health costs and the price of prescription drugs, increasing paychecks while rebuilding America with green, modern infrastructure, combating the climate crisis, reducing income disparity and strengthening democracy For The People.”

McGovern added: “This Democratic rules package is the result of unprecedented consultation across our caucus and the Congress. We asked every Member for their ideas, from the longest-serving to the newly elected and spent months vetting ideas. This package is stronger because of such a collaborative process. We are proposing historic changes that will modernize Congress, restore regular order and bring integrity back to this institution. It unrigs the rules so the People’s House actually works for the people again. Americans demanded a new direction, and this rules package will immediately usher in a new era for this Congress.”

According to the release, the rules package will “modernize Congress in five key ways”:

“It restores the people’s voice by aligning Congress’ agenda with the priorities of the American people. That includes changes that would: enable the House to defend the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing conditions coverage; create a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis so Congress can better respond to the urgency of this threat while creating the good-paying, green jobs of the future; protect federal workers by ending the Holman Rule, which allows appropriations bills or amendments that would reduce the salary of or fire a specific federal employee or cut a specific program; strengthen representation by giving voting rights to Delegates and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico in the Committee of the Whole; ensure Delegates and the Resident Commissioner can be appointed to Joint Committees; and honor our commitment to workers by putting labor back in the Committee on Education and Labor.

“It restores the legislative process by creating a more accommodating process for ideas to be considered. That includes changes that would: establish a real 72-hour rule so Members of Congress have time to read the major bills they’re voting on; create a consensus calendar to expedite consideration of measures with broad bipartisan support; require bills that go through the Rules Committee to have a hearing and a markup before they go to the floor; and create a bipartisan Select Committee to modernize and improve Congress.

“It restores oversight and ethics by cleaning up Washington and reasserting the legislative branch as a co-equal branch of government. That includes changes that would: close the conflict of interest loophole by prohibiting Members, Delegates, the Resident Commissioner, and staff from serving on corporate boards; require all Members of Congress – not just new Members – to complete ethics training every year; provide assistance and training to congressional staff in order to properly and securely handle whistleblowers who reach out to congressional offices; make clear that nondisclosure agreements cannot be used to prohibit current or former staff from reporting possible wrongdoing; and set a policy that Members indicted for serious crimes should resign from leadership roles and committee assignments.

“It restores budget rules through: eliminating the sham budgetary process of CUTGO that pretends tax cuts pay for themselves; streamlining budget rules by eliminating dynamic scoring requirements; reinstating and modernizing the Gephardt Rule to protect our nation’s credit rating; and ending the policy that allows Federal lands to be given away for free without acknowledging the budgetary impact.

“It restores inclusion and diversity so the House of Representatives reflects the faces of America. That includes changes that would: amend House rules to clearly ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; ensure religious expression by clarifying that religious headwear is permitted to be worn in the House chamber; create a diversity office to facilitate a workforce that reflects Members and the districts they represent; and create a subcommittee within the Committee on Financial Services to oversee diversity and inclusion within the financial services space.”

The package was developed after consultation with members and members-elect as well as caucuses including the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Democratic Women’s Working Group, the New Democrat Coalition, the Blue Dog Coalition, and members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Problem Solvers Caucus.

Outside groups were also consulted, according to the release, including Demand Progress, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Rebuild Congress Initiative and Public Citizen, “as well as process experts from all House committees, the Congressional Research Service, the Office of the General Counsel, the Office of the Parliamentarian and the Congressional Budget Office, among others.”

Rule package changes would include Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner and U.S. territory delegates further by:

–Clarifying that “Delegates and the Resident Commissioner must be notified of action regarding the convening of the House.”

–Extending “the same powers and privileges of Members to Delegates and the Resident Commissioner when in the Committee of the Whole. The subsection also provides that any recorded vote in the Committee of the Whole, decided within a margin where the Delegates and the Resident Commissioner may have had a decisive impact on the final outcome of the vote, will be re-conducted in the House. Allowing Delegates and the Resident Commissioner to Serve on Joint Committees. Subsection (c) provides that Delegates and the Resident Commissioner may serve on joint committees.”

–”Delegates-elect, the Resident Commissioner-elect, contestants in elections for Delegate or the Resident Commissioner, and Governors of the Territories to the list of people who are permitted in the Hall of the House.”

–Authorizes the “Committee on Ethics to consider as evidence the transcripts and exhibits from trial where a Member, Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner was convicted by a court of record for a crime related to the subject of the investigation by the Committee on Ethics.”

–Clarifies that “Delegates and the Resident Commissioner count when establishing a quorum in the Committee of the Whole and when determining if the requisite number are present to request a recorded vote therein. The subsection also instructs the Chair to include Delegates and the Resident Commissioner when determining if Members are provided adequate opportunity to vote.”

–Provides the “Chair of the Committee of the Whole with additional discretion to reduce votes to two minutes, if in the discretion of the Chair Members, Delegates, and the Resident Commissioner would be afforded an adequate opportunity to vote.”

–Adds to the “Code of Official Conduct a prohibition on discrimination by any Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

–Extends “the prohibition on sexual relationships between members (including Delegates and the Resident Commissioner) and their employees to include members who serve on a committee on which a staffer works, even if that staffer is not his or her direct employee.”

–Adds to the “Code of Official Conduct the standard that a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner who has been indicted or formally charged with criminal conduct for a felony offense punishable by at least two years in prison should resign from any committee on which he or she serves, and step aside from any party caucus or conference leadership position the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner holds, until he or she is acquitted or the charges are dismissed or reduced below the previously described threshold.”

–Prohibits “Members, Delegates and the Resident Commissioner, officers, and employees of the House from serving as an officer or director of any public company, effective January 1, 2020. The subsection also requires the Committee on Ethics to develop regulations by December 31, 2019, addressing other types of prohibited service or positions that could lead to conflicts of interest.”

– Reinstates “House Resolution 451 from the 110th Congress, directing the Committee on Ethics to 9 empanel an investigative subcommittee or issue a report within 30 days of the date a Member, Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner is indicted or criminal charges are filed.”

–Require that a “Member, Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner to reimburse the Treasury for any settlement of a complaint related to a claim alleging a violation by the Member of sections 201(a), 206(a), or 207 of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, which cover discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes as including sexual orientation and gender identity), national origin, disability, or an employee’s service in the uniformed services, and retaliation for claims alleging such discrimination.”

–Establishes a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to which the “Speaker is directed to appoint 15 Members, Delegates, or the Resident Commissioner to serve on…and to designate one of its members to serve as the chair. Six of the 15 members must be appointed on the recommendation of the Minority Leader.:

–Allow :the Speaker to recognize Members, Delegates, or the Resident Commissioner for the reading of the Constitution on any legislative day during the first session of the 116th Congress.:

–Establishes a Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress to investigate, study, make findings, hold public hearings and develop recommendations on modernizing Congress.

“The Speaker is directed to appoint 12 Members, Delegates, or the Resident Commissioner to serve on the Select Committee….”

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