Adopting Rules for the One Hundred Twelfth Congress
January 05, 2011
On January 5, 2011, the 112th Congress is scheduled to begin with a quorum call and the election of the Speaker. Following the quorum call and the election of the Speaker, the House will consider a privileged resolution adopting House Rules for the 112th Congress. Since the rules have yet to be adopted, the House operates under “general parliamentary law,” and precedent generally dictates that the House operates under the rules of the preceding Congress until the new rules are approved. The resolution is thus considered under the one-hour rule “in the House” (and not in the Committee of the Whole), and the Leadership is recognized for one hour, of which 30 minutes is customarily yielded to the Minority. The House is then expected to proceed with a vote on H.Res. 5.
H.Res. 5 would adopt the Rules of 111th Congress, except as amended by H.Res. 5, as the Rules for the 112th Congress. The following is a summary of the specific amendments and changes to the Rules of the 111th Congress made by H.Res. 5. Citing Authority Under the Constitution: The Rules for the 112th Congress would require that no bill or joint resolution may be introduced in the 112th Congress without being accompanied by a statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers under the Constitution authorizing the enactment of that bill. The statement must be submitted by the sponsor of the bill and would appear in a separate section in the Congressional Record and be made available to the public in electronic form. Three-Day Availability for Unreported Bills: The Rules would a point of order against a bill from being considered in the House if it had not been available to Members for three calendar days. Transparency for House and Committee Operations: The Rules would require the Committee on House Administration to establish a standard for making all House documents publicly available in electronic form. The rules would also require a minimum notice period of three days for a committee meeting. The text of any measure being marked up by a committee would be required to be made available at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. In addition, the Rules would require each committee to make the results of any recorded votes publicly available within 48 hours of a vote. Any adopted amendment would need to be made available within 24
hours of adoption. The Rules would also require that witness “truth in testimony” information be made publicly available and that committee rules are also made available electronically. The Rules would require committees to make audio and video coverage of each meeting available to the maximum extent practicable. Initiatives to Reduce Spending and Improve Accountability: Cut-Go: The Rules would replace the current “pay-as-you-go” (PAYGO) requirement with a new “cutas-you-go” requirement. Under the new rule, any legislation that would increase mandatory spending over one, five, or ten years would have to cut spending by an equal or greater amount elsewhere. Tax increases could not be used to pay for new mandatory spending. The provision would apply to all bills dealing with mandatory spending and the Rules include a mechanism to address “emergency” designations. Ending the Gephardt Rule: The Rules would strike the so-called “Gephardt rule,” which allows a joint resolution with a debt limit increase contained in the budget resolution to be automatically engrossed and deemed to have passed the House by the same vote as the conference report on the budget resolution, thus avoiding a separate vote on the debt-limit legislation. Clarifying the Role of the Budget Committee Chairman: The Rules would clarify that the Chairman of the Budget Committee is authorized to provide guidance to the presiding officer on the budgetary impact of legislative proposals (as opposed to the entire Budget Committee providing guidance). Highway Funding: The Rules would remove restrictions pertaining to funding amendments to transportation general appropriations bills. Limitation on Increases in Direct Spending in Reconciliation Initiatives: The Rules would prohibit consideration of a concurrent budget resolution containing reconciliation directives if it would cause an increase to net direct spending in the period covered by the budget resolution. Other Changes to House Operations: Two Minute Voting: The Rules would authorize the Chair to reduce the time of recorded votes to two minutes. Use of Electronic Devices: The Rules would expand current restrictions against mobile phones and personal computers to prohibit any “electronic device that impairs decorum.” Updating Rules Governing the Media: The Rules would eliminate references to specific media organizations and simply state that, “The Speaker may admit to the floor, under such regulations as the Speaker may prescribe, not more than one representative of each press association.” Voting in the Committee of the Whole: The Rules would eliminate the ability of delegates and the Resident Commissioner to vote in, and preside over, the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union. Motions to Strike: The Rules would remove a provision of current rules which allows a motion to strike a provision from a bill that is asserted to be an unfunded mandate, even if the amendment would not otherwise be in order during consideration of the bill.
Committee Name Changes: The Rules would change the names of three committees as follows: the Committee on Education and Labor to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to the Committee on Ethics, and the Committee on Science and Technology to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. In addition, the Rules would eliminate the Select Oversight Panel of the Committee on Appropriations. Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: The Rules would reduce the size of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 22 to 20 (total) Members and 13 to 12 (majority) Members. Term Limits for Committee Chairs: The Rules would limit the terms of committee or subcommittee chairs (except the Rules Committee) to no more than three consecutive Congresses. Committee Activity Reports: The Rules would increase the frequency of required committee activity reports from once per year to four times per year. Staff Deposition Authority: The Rules would modify the authority of Oversight Committee staff by requiring that a member will have to be present when staff is deposing a witness. Separate Orders: Budget Matters: The Rules would clarify that a point of order prohibiting consideration of legislation within the Budget Committee’s jurisdiction unless reported by the Budget Committee would only apply to bills and joint resolutions, and not to simple or concurrent resolutions. The Rules also clarify that a point of order requiring adoption of a budget resolution before consideration of budget-related legislation is applicable to text made in order as an original bill by a special rule. In addition, the Rules would create a point of order against rising from the Committee of the Whole to report a bill to the House that exceeds budget authority under 302 (b) Appropriations subcommittee allocations. Budget Enforcement: The Rules would require the Chairman of the Budget Committee to submit budget aggregates and allocations for fiscal year 2011, and the period of fiscal years 2011 through 2015, for printing in the Congressional Record. The aggregates and allocations printed in the Congressional Record would be considered to be the adoption of a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011. Emergencies and Contingencies: The Rules would exempt bills and joints resolutions designated as “emergency” or bills that make appropriations for contingency operations related to the global war on terror from being counted against budget aggregates and allocations. Deficit-Neutral Revenue Reserve: The Rules would authorize the Budget Committee to make adjustments to allocations and revenue levels to reflect changes resulting from a repeal of the job-killing government health care takeover. Limitation on Advanced Appropriations: The Rules would place a ceiling of $28.8 billion on aggregate advanced appropriations for FY 2012 and FY 2013. The Rules would provide an except for the Department of Veterans Affairs for the Medical Services, Medical Support and Compliance, and Medical Facilities accounts of the Veterans Health Administration. Limitation on Long-term Spending: The Rules would prohibit the consideration of any measure which increases mandatory spending above $5 billion for any 10 year window within a 40 year period.
Exemptions: The Rules would authorize the Budget Committee Chairman, prior to the adoption of a budget resolution, to exempt from estimates the budgetary effects of the 2001 and 2003 tax relief packages. It also exempts the budgetary effects of the repeal of the government takeover of health care. The budgetary effects of AMT relief, estate tax, trade agreements and small business tax relief are also exempted. Spending Reduction Amendments in Appropriations Bills: The Rules would require that each appropriations bill contain a “spending reduction” account. The account would contain the total amount of spending removed from the bill through the amendment process. Amendments to cut certain accounts or lower funding levels in appropriations bills would be counted towards spending reduction. The Rules would also require that other amendments that propose to increase spending in accounts in a general appropriations bill must include an offset of equal or greater value. Certain Subcommittees: The Rules would stipulate that the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Affairs may not have more than seven subcommittees each and that the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure may not have more than six. Exercise Facilities for Former Members: The Rules would continue a prohibition against former Members of Congress who are now registered lobbyists from using the Member exercise facilities. Numbering of Bills: The Rules would reserve bill numbers H.R. 1 through H.R. 10 for the Speaker and bill numbers H.R. 11 through H.R. 20 for the Minority Leader. Committees, Commissions, and House Offices: The Rules would reauthorize the House Democracy Partnership and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and the Office of Congressional Ethics. The Rules would also continue to direct the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to empanel investigative subcommittees within 30 days after the date on which a Member is indicted. Additional Orders of Business: The Rules would allow the Speaker to recognize Members for the reading of the Constitution on the legislative day of January 6, 2011. Finally, the Rules would allow the Speaker to entertain motions to suspend the rules related to reducing the costs of operation of the House.
Article I, Section 5, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that “each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” The House of Representatives is not a continuing body; it has to reconstitute itself at the beginning of each new Congress. Accordingly, at the start of every new Congress, the House adopts new rules, normally the standing rules of the preceding Congress with various changes. (As a continuing body with only a third of its Members elected every two years, the Senate does not pass new rules each new Congress.)
A CBO cost estimate for H. Res. 5 is not available.