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Just in case you need more evidence that the floor of the House of Representatives has devolved into little more than a political sideshow, let's take a look at how they're allocating their time these days. On Wednesday the Rules Committee got together for 10 minutes to decide that extending the three most controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act would be allowed 1 hour of debate on the floor. The day before that they met for more than an hour and decided to give 9.5 hours of debate to …wait for it... a non-binding resolution directing committees to hold hearings on regulations that businesses don't like.

That's right. One hour for debate on allowing the government to continue demanding that libraries and businesses turn over individuals' private records without being allowed to notify the individual, but 9.5 hours for debating on a non-binding bill requesting committees to hold hearings. One hour for debate on allowing the government to continue using "roving" wiretaps on multiple phones and devices that suspects may possibly use, but 9.5 hours for debating on a non-binding bill requesting committees to hold hearings. One hour for debate on allowing the government to surveil supposed terrorist suspects that aren't part of a terrorist group, but 9.5 hours for debating on a non-binding bill requesting committees to hold hearings. You get the picture.

 

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Protecting the PATRIOT Act

February 10, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House Rules Committee met for about 10 minutes yesterday afternoon to decide how to handle the PATRIOT Act extension bill that was defeated earlier this week when the Republicans tried to bring it to the floor under an expedited process with only 40 minutes of debate and no amendments. Their decision, which does not come as too much of a surprise, is to bring the bill back to the floor under a closed rule that will still not allow any amendments and will still keep the debate very brief. The rule, however, will allow for the bill to pass by a simple majority, so unless dozens more members turn against the extension at the last minute, it will pass easily.

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Obama-GOP Tax Bill Set to Pass the House Today

December 16, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE 4: After more than 6 hours of delay, the Democrats passed a slightly revised rule by a 214-201 vote. The new rule doesn't change how many or which amendments will be voted on, it just allows for a separate up-or-down vote on the bill even if the estate tax amendment passes. The original rule would have deemed the bill passed once the amendment is passed.

 

Original post below. I'll be rolling updates on this post, so check back again shortly for more (and follow along on Twitter)...

The House Rules Committee met last night to hammer out the rule that will govern today's House debate of the Obama-GOP tax bill, and, as expected, they're protecting it by allowing only one amendment vote. There will be no votes on letting the upper-income tax rates expire, making the payroll tax provision less regressive, lengthening the unemployment insurance filing extension, or adding an extra tier of benefits for the 99ers. The only vote allowed will be on an amendment to raise the estate tax from the Senate's very low level to the almost-as-low 2009 level as set by Bush, and House leaders are whipping against this because they don't want to have to send the bill back to the Senate.

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Changing the Senate's Tax Bill

December 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate is now in session and they are about to start voting on Obama's plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for all income levels in exchange for extending unemployment benefits for 13 months, and some other stuff. It's expected to pass easily and will be sent to the House for follow-up action, probably on Wednesday. House Democrats have pretty much given up on the idea of walking away from the deal, which they almost unanimously disapprove of, and letting the tax cuts expire. Instead they will hold votes on amendments and see if a majority can agree on any changes. If not, they'll pass it as is.

National Journal explains how the House will choose amendments to vote on:

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Your Guide to the House Health Care Vote

March 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

After more than 13 hours and 80 amendments later, the Rules Committee adjourned on Saturday night with a rule in place to allow the House of Representatives to debate and vote Sunday on the health care bill and the package of fixes in the reconciliation bill. As announced earlier in the day, there will be no "deem and pass" straegy employed. The health care bill and the reconciliation bill conatining the "fixes" will get straight up-or-down votes.

In total, it's expected that there will be seven votes held throughout the day. Two on the rule, two on budget points of order, one on a Republican motion to recommit, and one each on the two bills that will be voted on. All of the votes will require a simple majority of 216 "ayes" to pass. All the action is expected to start at about 1 p.m. ET. Here's your guide to Sunday's floor debate as the Democrats take this monumental step towards finalizing Congress and President Obama's health care reform effort.

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"Deem and Pass" Deemed Dead

March 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Rules Committee meeting is still going on. But the biggest decision of the day has already been made. The Democrats have decided not to use the "self-executing rule," otherwise known as "deem and pass," and will instead hold a separate vote on passing the Senate health care bill.

This is a strong sign that Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] has more than enough votes for passing the health care bill on Sunday.

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Setting the Rules

March 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The House Committee on Rules meets at 10 a.m. ET today to craft the "rule" that will govern the big health care vote that is scheduled for Sunday in the House. The biggest question they'll have to tackle will be whether to use a "self-executing rule," which would allow the Democrats to deem the health care bill to be passed in the House without requiring them to take a stand-alone vote on it.

Here's your update on what to watch on Saurday as health care reform moves closer to the finish line.

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Health Care Bill Summary: Follow the Endgame

March 18, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The 72 hour clock has begun to tick, all the materials for the final health care bill are online, a House vote is tentatively set for Sunday, President Obama has again postponed his Asia trip, and the votes are steadily flipping in the direction of getting this bill done and signed into law. Click through for a summary & links with everything you need to keep up as health care reform approaches the finish line.

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Let the endgames begin! The pieces of the process puzzle for finishing health care reform are falling into place. The votes are being whipped. And, after 14 months of national obsession with health care reform, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' statement on Sunday that in one week the health care bill will be "the law of the land," actually seems plausible.

Here's the latest on what to expect this week -- both politically and procedurally -- and when to expect it.

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As House Democrats struggle to round up the votes to pass the Senate health care bill, they're considering using more and more obscure parliamentary rules to help them. Politico reports: "Party leaders have discussed the possibility of using the House Rules Committee to avoid an actual vote on the Senate's bill, according to leadership aides. They would do this by writing what's called a "self-executing rule," meaning the Senate bill would be attached to a package of fixes being negotiated between the two chambers -- without an actual vote on the Senate's legislation."

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Rep. Slaughter Takes on Credit Card Interest Rates

January 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Rep. Louise Slaughter [D, NY-28] recently introduced a bill along with Rep. John Tierney [D, MA-6] that would set a nation-wide annual credit card interest rate cap at 16%. She's bringing the bill straight to the Rules Committee, of which she is the Chair, in an attempt to prevent it from simply dying in committee.

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