House Democrats Adopt New Rules, New Select Committees, for 116th Congress

By Susan Jones | January 2, 2019 | 11:10am EST
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will become House Speaker on Thursday. (File photo: Screen capture)

( - Most of the rules for the 115th Congress will carry over to the 116th, but there are some notable exceptions.

When Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, they required a three-fifths "super-majority" to pass any income tax hike. That rule is now out the window.

The new Democrat-controlled Congress has just removed the requirement that three-fifths of House Members must vote to raise federal income taxes. The new rule also removes the requirement that such votes be automatically recorded.

Other changes include:

-- No more dynamic scoring

The Congressional Budget Office began using dynamic scoring in 2015, but now it won't have to do that. The new rule removes the requirement that CBO and Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation consider macroeconomic variables (dynamic scoring) when they estimate the budgetary effects of major legislation.

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan was a proponent of dynamic scoring; critics say it allows Republicans to make their tax cuts look good by incorporating economic growth into their cost estimates. For example, the Trump administration promised its tax-cut plan would pay for itself by stimulating economic growth.

-- Automatic suspension of the debt limit

When the House adopts a budget resolution, a separate joint resolution suspending the federal debt limit through September 30 of the budget year is deemed to have passed the House by the same vote and is engrossed (certified) separately and sent to the Senate.

-- 72-hour rule

This new rule requires legislative text to be made publicly available a full 72 hours before it is considered in the House. Previously, legislative text could not be considered before the "third day” on which it had been available to Members (not the public).

-- Consensus Calendar

The new rules establish a Consensus Calendar of measures that have at least 290 cosponsors. Once this cosponsorship threshold is reached and various other conditions are met, the sponsor of the measure may, while the House is in session, submit to the Clerk a written motion to place the measure on the Consensus Calendar, where it remains -- pending various requirements -- until it is considered in the House or reported by its primary committee.

The House Speaker must designate, and the House must consider, at least one measure on the Consensus Calendar during any week in which the House convenes, except at the beginning and the end of a Congress.

-- New offices and committees

1. A new Office of Diversity and Inclusion will be established in the House of Representatives to report on its workforce, among other things.

This office is required to produce a diversity plan that includes: (1) policies to direct and guide House offices to recruit, hire, train, develop, advance, promote and retain a diverse workforce; (2) the development of a survey to evaluate diversity in House offices; (3) a framework for the House of Representatives diversity report.

The House diversity report must be submitted at the end of each session of Congress to the Speaker, the Majority and Minority Leaders, and the chairs and ranking members of the Committee on House Administration and one of its subcommittees.

2. A new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will be established to "investigate, study, make findings, and develop recommendations on policies, strategies, and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis."

This Select Committee is authorized to hold hearings and may report to the House or any committee the results of its investigations and studies, together with any detailed findings and policy recommendations. The committee will not have subpoena or deposition authority; but it may submit subpoena and deposition recommendations to the relevant standing committees.

3. A new Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress will be established to investigate, study, make findings, hold public hearings, and develop recommendations on modernizing Congress. Topics for investigation include: (1) rules to promote a more modern and efficient Congress; (2) procedures including the schedule and calendar; (3) policies to develop the next generation of leaders; (4) staff recruitment, diversity, retention, and compensation and benefits; (5) administrative efficiencies; (6) technology and innovation; and (7) the Franking Commission.

A final report from this Select Committee is due at the end of the first session of the 116th Congress. All policy recommendations must be agreed to by at least two-thirds of the Select Committee’s members.

4. There are no more term limits for committee chairs or members of the Budget Committee.

-- Committees renamed

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is renamed the Committee on Oversight and Reform; The Committee on Education and the Workforce is changed back to the Committee on Education and Labor.

-- Annual ethics training

Annual ethics training is now required of all Members, not just new Members.

-- Sexual relationships

Sexual relationships are banned not just between Members and their office employees but between Members and committee staff, even if the staffer is not a direct employee of the committee member. Members must pay for discrimination settlements out of their own pockets.

-- Religious Headdress

The new rules maintain the existing prohibition on wearing hats in the the "Hall of the House," but it clarifies that this prohibition does not include religious headwear.

-- Legal issues related to Affordable Care Act

This rule authorizes the House Speaker, on behalf of the House, to intervene, appear, or take any other steps in Texas v. United States...or any other case involving the constitutionality or legality of any provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including provisions ensuring affordable health coverage for those with preexisting conditions.

This rule is intended to protect the "institutional interests" of the House of Representatives in litigation involving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, given that the Trump Justice Department has not only refused to defend provisions of the law, but has affirmatively argued that certain provisions of the Act are unconstitutional.

-- Legal Issues Related to SNAP

This rule directs the General Counsel of the House of Representatives to explore all possible legal options for responding to any rulemaking by the United States Department of Agriculture, on or after December 20, 2018, to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program involving requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents.

(On Dec. 20, 2018, President Trump's Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue proposed a regulation intended to move more able-bodied adults without dependents off food stamps and into work.)

A full report on the Democrat rule changes can be found here.

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