House Passes New Rules Enhancing Its Constitutional ‘Power of the Purse’

By Barbara Hollingsworth | January 4, 2017 | 4:40pm EST
Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).
(AP photo)

 

(CNSNews.com) – The House of Representatives adopted changes to the chamber’s standing rules on Tuesday that “enhance the House’s ability to exercise its ‘power of the purse’,” according to House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).

The vote was 234 to 193 along party lines, with three Republicans siding with Democrats against the rule changes, which include a restoration of the Holman Rule during the first session of the 115th Congress.   

The Holman Rule, which originally dates back to 1876, allows lawmakers to bring an amendment to an appropriations bill directly to the House floor that “retrenches expenditures by (1) the reduction of amounts of money in the bill; (2) the reduction of the number and salary of the officers of the United States; or (3) the reduction of the compensation of any person paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”

Griffith, who spearheaded the successful effort to reinstate the Holman Rule, told CNSNews.com that the rule applies to so-called “mandatory spending” bills before Congress, adding that it was part of the House rules until 1983.

But House Speaker Tip O’Neill axed it during President Ronald Reagan’s first term to thwart Republicans and Reagan Democrats from cutting federal programs, Griffith told CNSNews.

Another rule change adopted by the House requires committee chairmen to make a list all federal programs that are unauthorized but still receiving federal funding.

Both of these changes enhance the House’s ability to exercise its ‘power of the purse’,” Griffith stated, telling CNSNews that they are the “first steps” in returning the House to regular order, in which individual appropriations bills are debated and amended on the House floor instead of being lumped together into a must-pass omnibus bill.

“With Donald Trump in the Oval Office, congressional Republicans must remember to exercise our Article I powers and not be a lapdog to the executive branch,” Griffith noted in his weekly newsletter.

“Fortunately, Donald Trump has indicated that he will respect Congress’ proper authority far more than the Obama Administration did. With his help, we can restore balance among the branches” of the federal government.

House Democrats protested against the restoration of the Holman Rule, arguing that it would allow Republicans to treat civil servants “like political pawns and scapegoats,” according to a statement by Washington-area members whose districts include many federal employees.

“Reinstating the ‘Holman Rule’ would make it easier for the Majority to circumvent the current legislative process in order to fire or cut the pay of federal employees.  It undermines civil service protections; it goes back to the 19th century,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said on the House floor.  

“Republicans have consistently made our hardworking federal employees scapegoats, in my opinion, for lack of performance of the federal government itself, and this rule change will enable them to make short-sighted and ideologically driven changes to our nation's civil service,” Hoyer stated.

But Griffith told CNSNews that nobody has pointed out to him any such abuses of power during the 100 or so years the Holman Rule was in effect.

“I don’t imagine that it will be used very often,” he said, adding that the incoming Trump administration “might be happy we have this tool in our toolbox.”

“It’s time to have a serious discussion about the budget deficit and the national debt, which is rapidly approaching $20 trillion, and there is no better way to begin that conversation than the Holman Rule,” FreedomWorks president Adam Brandon said in a statement praising Griffith.

 “The revival of this provision, though temporary, is important because it restores congressional power over the executive branch and could lead to reductions in federal spending,” he continued.

“If any deficit reduction happens as a result of the Holman Rule, it will be because of his leadership,” Brandon added.

Related: Sen. Lankford: ‘This Year, There’s a Half Trillion in Overspending’

Related: Coburn: Enemy of Freedom is Congress & Courts, Not President-Elect

 

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