House Democrats roll out rules package for new Congress
House leaders have announced a package of new chamber rules they plan to pass once the new Congress is sworn on Thursday that Democrats say are designed to boost transparency, promote input from rank-and-file members and help defuse perennial standoffs over issues like the debt ceiling.
Rep. James McGovern, the incoming chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the package is the result of “unprecedented consultation” among members.
“Americans demanded a new direction, and this rules package will immediately usher in a new era for this Congress,” said Mr. McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat.
Among other provisions, the package includes a section saying that legislative text has to be publicly available for 72 hours before a bill is considered in the House, and another saying that bills with broad support from members will be placed on a special priority calendar.
It also includes language saying that when the House passes an annual budget resolution, a separate resolution suspending the federal debt limit is “deemed” to have also passed the House.
That provision is intended to defuse the perennial standoffs over voting to increase the federal debt ceiling — though any move to increase or suspend the debt limit would also require approval from the GOP-controlled Senate.
Congress voted last year to suspend the debt ceiling through March 1, 2019, though some have estimated that the Treasury Department will have until the summer before it runs out of special measures it can use to delay a breach.
The rules package also contains a provision that makes it more difficult to pass legislation that increases the deficit, with some exceptions for emergencies.
Democrats have criticized the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package the GOP passed in December 2017 for increasing federal deficits, though both parties also came together last year to boost federal spending caps by about $300 billion in 2018 and 2019.
Several provisions could also make it easier for House Democrats to pass legislation rolling back all or part of the GOP tax cuts, which Democrats have pledged to revisit once they officially assume the majority in the House.
The package removes a requirement that a three-fifths majority is needed to increase federal income taxes.
It also removes a requirement that congressional scorekeepers factor in the broader economic effects of legislation through “dynamic scoring” when estimating how much a bill will cost.
Republicans have long argued that many budget scorekeepers underestimate the additional revenue conservatives say tax cuts generate in the long run because the analyses don’t factor in the broader economic effects of the cuts.
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