Less than a month after officially retaking the majority, House Democrats already are passing waivers for their new requirement to give members at least 72 hours to read legislation.
Democrats had highlighted the new rule as a key part of the rules package they approved earlier this month, but they said the partial government shutdown has led to extenuating “emergency” circumstances.
“When it comes to emergencies, we need to move quickly,” said Rep. James McGovern, who chairs the House Rules Committee. “I mean, Christ, 800,000 federal workers aren’t getting paid. Millions of people are being impacted by this. I mean, if this is not an emergency, I don’t know what the hell is.”
On Friday, the House and the Senate both sped through stopgap spending bills that will keep the government running through Feb. 15, moving to end the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history after more than a month.
The House passed the legislation via unanimous consent just hours after leaders announced the measure. Neither party raised major objections to the quick move, as both sides were eager to find a way out of the shutdown standoff, if only temporarily.
But before Friday, Mr. McGovern’s committee had included waivers for the 72-hour requirement in the rules that set the terms of floor debate for six spending bills, including for the bill the House passed Thursday that would have extended funding for the Department of Homeland Security through February.
In other cases, it appears they included the language out of an abundance of caution for bills that were available publicly but not filed officially, or they didn’t end up needing to use the waiver.
But GOP members said the early workaround still smacks of hypocrisy, after Democrats had railed against House Republicans for frequently violating their own “third day” rule on major bills when they were in the majority.
“This is just another line we’re going to continue to see either attacking the administration or against regular order as a whole,” said Rep. Mark Walker, vice chairman of the House Republican Conference. “I hope it will resonate with the American public this cycle.”
Rep. Warren Davidson, Ohio Republican, said parts of Democrats’ new rules package were commendable, but that the early waiving of the 72-hour requirement demonstrates a “lack of sincerity.”
“I hope once we get past this debate and shutdown, [they’ll] do what they said they would do, which would be nice,” he said.
Mr. McGovern pointed out that at least the general contours of individual spending bills the House has passed this month have been known for some time, since some of them were based on full-year appropriations bills negotiators had been working on last year before the debate over President Trump’s desired border wall derailed the process.
“These were bills from last year. They’ve been pre-conferenced and they’ve been there for everybody,” said Mr. McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat. “When it comes to emergencies, we need to move quickly. We come to an agreement tomorrow, we are going to move that bill tomorrow.”
In approving their new House rules package, Democrats said they wanted to impose a “real” 72-hour rule, after the House GOP had ratified one saying that bills couldn’t be considered until the third day after they were made available to members.
Democrats said those GOP guidelines amounted to a “24-hour-and-two-second” rule, under which a bill theoretically could be introduced at 11:59 p.m. on the first day and voted on just after midnight on the third day.
Republicans worked around that requirement anyway when they were in the majority as well — including on a massive 2,232-page “omnibus” spending bill Congress sped through last March.
“This is an abomination of the legislative process,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, then the minority whip, said in a fiery floor speech in March. “I have not read the bill the only person that could read this bill is the supercomputers.”
© Copyright (c) 2019 News World Communications, Inc.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.