House Democrats Pass New Rules to Curb Republican Influence

By Susan Jones | January 7, 2009 | 6:16 AM EST

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio presents House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California with a gavel in the House Chamber on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009, before the start of the 111th Congress. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( – House Republicans say they are ready to work with Democrats for “genuine solutions” to America’s problems. But Republicans will find it more difficult to advance their solutions, now that Democrats have passed new rules curbing Republican clout.
The rule changes passed Tuesday, on the first day of the 111th Congress, are “designed to silence” Republicans, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said.
“The new rules repeal term limits for committee chairman, consolidate power in the hands of a few, and attempt to silence Republican input on key policy debates, in addition to making a mockery of the Democratic leaders' promises of presiding over an open Congress,” Blunt said in a news release.
Republicans are particularly upset about limits on sending bills back to committee for amendments.
According to Blunt, Republicans have used the motion to recommit “as one of the very few tools left to the Minority to improve legislation before its passage.”
Democrats complain that motions to recommit are gimmicks used by Republicans to delay or kill legislation and to score political points at the expense of Democrats.
The new rules allow the full House to reconsider a bill without delay.
House Republican leader John Boehner (Ohio) complained that the new rules imposed by Democrats will take Congress “back to the old days of backroom deals and undemocratic one-party rule.”
The new rules package “silences the voices of tens of millions of Americans by further shutting down open debate on the House floor and taking away the Minority’s right to offer substantive policy alternatives on behalf of the millions of Americans they represent,” Boehner said.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Republican leaders urged Democrats not to shut down open debate on the House floor by refusing to allow all lawmakers the opportunity to offer “substantive alternatives to important legislation.”
According to Boehner, the rule changes will have direct consequences for the American people: “Among other things, they’ll make it harder to cut taxes. Under existing rules, if Democrats bring a bill to the floor that includes a tax increase, Republicans could motion to send the bill back to committee and strike the tax hike, but the Majority’s rules package takes this option away.”
“With promises of ‘change’ and a new way of doing business in Washington, does the Democratic Majority really want to silence the voices of tens of millions of Americans during the very first hours of the new Congress?” Boehner asked in an Internet posting before the new rules package was passed.
So much for President-elect Barack Obama’s calls for bipartisanship, said Rep. David Dreier of California, the ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee.
The rule changes will create "the most closed Congress in history," the Washington Times quoted Drier as saying.
 Democrats now hold a 257-178 majority in the House. The 111th Congress adopted the rules changes by a 242-181 vote.