The 116th Congress convened a few days ago, most notably its incoming freshman class in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Amidst the calls for impeachment, gun control legislation, and climate change legislation, perhaps the most important agenda one should take notice of is the series of rule changes introduced in the House. The Democrats are pushing such changes in order to advance their own agenda. According to the Heritage Foundation, these rule changes are as follows:
- Motion to vacate the chair. Under current House rules, a member may offer a privileged motion (i.e. force a vote on the House floor) to vacate the chair which has the effect of removing the person serving as Speaker of the House. The proposed rule change would only allow the motion to vacate to have privileged status if it first receives a majority vote by either party. Since party leaders have the ability to control the votes within party meetings, this would effectively remove the opportunity for Representatives to hold the Speaker of the House accountable for the 116th Congress.
- The Consensus Calendar. All legislation in the House that passes a committee is added to one of three legislative calendars for consideration throughout the House. The proposed rule change adds an additional calendar referred to as the Consensus Calendar and requires the House to consider the bill on the floor. For a bill to be eligible for the new calendar, it must have 290 cosponsors. Such a rule change will most likely empower moderates to the detriment of conservatives and liberals.
- Economic impact of taxes. Legislation that changes federal revenue has to be scored or receive an economic impact estimate from the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT). The JCT currently produces two scores, one being simple outlining of the number of dollars the bill will increase or decrease federal revenue (known as the static score), and the other being a macroeconomic analysis of how the bill will impact the economy (known as a dynamic score). In addition, House rules prohibit a bill that raises income taxes from passing unless it receives a 3/5 supermajority vote. The proposed rule change eliminates the dynamic scoring requirement and the supermajority vote for raising taxes. As a result, such changes will make it harder to reduce taxes and thus make it easier to increase taxes.
- Increase in budget authority. The federal government is funded through twelve annual appropriations bills, each one establishing a certain level of spending known as budget authority. The current House rules prohibit amendments that increase a bill’s budget authority. The proposed rule change would eliminate the point of order against amendments that increase the appropriation bill’s budget authority, thus allowing amendments to increase spending in a government program without offsetting such an increase by reducing spending in a different government program.
- Sexual orientation and gender identity. Rules governing employment practices in the House are the same as federal civil rights laws, i.e. its Members are held to the same standards as civilian employers. The proposed rule change would add employment protections for employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and force Members of the House with traditional views on this issue to hire anyone who disagrees with their beliefs and views.
- The Debt Limit. The federal government incurs debt under a law that places limits on the amount of debt (referred to as the statutory debt limit). When the debt limit is reached, Congress must pass into law a new debt limit before the U.S. Treasury can increase the federal debt. The proposed rule change eliminates having a separate vote on increasing the statutory debt limit by deeming a debt limit increase to be passed by the House without its Members having to vote on it. Such a change will shield Members from being held accountable on how they vote to further increase the indebtedness of the country.
- Legal defense of liberal policies. Both Houses of Congress occasionally seek to intervene in federal court cases which impact the rights of Congress, e.g. engage in litigation regarding any abuse of power by the President. In order to authorize any litigation, the House must pass a resolution authorizing the Speaker to do so. The proposed rule change eliminates the requirement for passing a separate resolution and thus allows the Speaker to initiate legal action on his or her own authority and thus automatically allow the Speaker to take action via the federal courts to oppose any action by the President as well as allowing the Speaker to speak for all Members of the House in support of partisan policies within the House.
- Select Committee on Climate Change. The House has 21 permanent or standing committees along with four joint committees with the Senate. There are also the occasional select committee established with the purpose of a specify policy goal. The proposed rule change establishes a new select committee assigned to investigating climate change.
It should be noted that whatever political party controls the House controls the legislative agenda of Congress. Such proposed rule changes will further empower the Democrats (including Speaker Pelosi). Thus, they could have a disastrous impact upon Congress and the country.