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National Govt & Politics
House Democrats unveil proposed rules changes for 116th Congress

House Democrats unveil proposed rules changes for 116th Congress

House Democrats unveil proposed rules changes for 116th Congress
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

House Democrats unveil proposed rules changes for 116th Congress

With the 116th Congress set to convene on Thursday afternoon, House Democrats have rolled out a package of rules updates for the chamber which put their party's imprint on the workings of the House, covering everything from making lawmakers pay for legal judgments against them, to technical changes in budget rules, to a plan to speed through resolutions allowing Congress to raise the debt limit, and creation of a special panel on future changes to the U.S. House.

"It restores the people’s voice by aligning Congress’ agenda with the priorities of the American people," wrote Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and new House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA).

The proposed changes plow some familiar ground, as Republicans and Democrats change certain items in a back-and-forth manner, depending on which party controls the House, but also contain some substantive changes on the consideration of legislation, ethics reforms, and how the House operates.

Here are some highlights from the Democratic rules plan:

1. Members required to pay for all types of discrimination settlements. Not satisfied with the details of a bill agreed to in late December by the House and Senate, which requires lawmakers - and not taxpayers - to pay for any settlements involving sexual harassment, the new House rules would require lawmakers to be financially responsible for any discrimination judgment against them, whether it involves sexual misconduct, or discrimination based upon race, religion, disability, and more. A separate rules change would also prohibit sexual relationships between members and committee staffers. Currently, that prohibition only applies to staffers who are directly employed by the lawmaker.

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2. Immediate actions against indicted lawmakers. With two Republican lawmakers now under indictment, a new rule from Democrats would officially say that any lawmaker charged with a felony must step aside from any committee and leadership positions until the criminal case is disposed of. A separate new rule would also ban anyone employed by the House - whether a member, staffer, or official - from serving on a corporate board. That's an issue for Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who faces charges of insider trading involving a biotech company in Australia. Not only was Collins the largest shareholder of Innate Immunotherapeutics, but also a member of Innate's board of directors. Another rule change would force the Ethics Committee to immediately pursue an investigation involving a lawmaker who has been indicted or charged with a crime.

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3. Democrats would create two new Select Committees. The first new House panel to be set up by Democrats has been known for some time - a committee to specifically examine the issue of climate change - which will be led by by Rep. Cathy Castor (D-FL). The second special panel will be on the "Modernization of Congress" - and will be tasked to look at how best to fashion rules, scheduling, technology, staff, and more to 'promote a more modern and efficient Congress.'

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4. Back and forth. Back and forth. The two parties obviously see things differently on a number of policy matters, and those differences extend to how the House is run as well. Now that Democrats are back in charge, they will again change the name of one House panel to what they like, the Committee on Education and Labor. Republicans had renamed the panel, the Committee on Education and the Workforce. And the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will be renamed the Committee on Oversight and Reform. Also, Democrats will restore the right of delegates from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands, to vote in certain situations when bills were being amended in the House, but not on votes for final passage of legislation. Democrats gave the delegates those voting rights in 1993, and Republicans took it away in 1995. Democrats restored that in 2007. Republicans took it away in 2011. Democrats will restore it again in 2019.

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5. New limits on efforts to depose a Speaker. After watching members of the House Freedom Caucus threaten to oust a pair of House GOP Speakers in recent years, the new Democratic rules package will limit the ability of lawmakers to force a vote during a session to push out a Speaker, using what is known as a 'motion to vacate' the chair. Under the new rules proposed by Democrats, any motion to vacate would have to be offered at the direction of the leadership of one of the parties - in other words, a single lawmaker or a small group of lawmakers could not force such a procedural vote in hopes of deposing a Speaker - instead, they would need the majority support of their party to be able to make that attempt on the floor of the House. Currently, just a small number of members could oust a Speaker - who needs a majority of 218 votes to be elected.

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6. A "real" 72-hour rule for legislation. When Republicans took over the House after the Obama health law, there was a lot of talk in GOP circles about "READ THE BILL" - and in order to have enough time, Republicans instituted a three-day rule to allow lawmakers time to look at legislation. But what it turned into was a procedure where a bill would be unveiled around 11:30 pm on a Tuesday - that would be day one - then after a second day, the bill would be voted on early on day three. So, it wasn't a true 3-day rule. Democrats say they are going to have a real 72-hour clock, which would start running when the legislation is posted online. I don't want to be the cynical curmudgeon in the Press Gallery - but I'll believe this when I see it.

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7. Hats not okay - religious headwear is fine. Another change in the House rules being proposed by the Democrats would deal with what lawmakers can wear on the floor. Currently, you cannot wear a hat on the floor. The only time I can remember a lawmaker wearing a hat was over in the Senate, after one Republican Senate had undergone brain surgery, and wore a baseball cap for a few weeks to cover the scars on his head. Other than that, hats are verboten. But with a new Muslim Democrat from Minnesota, Rep.-Elect Ilhan Omar, the rules would be changed to allow her to wear a religious headscarf on the House floor.

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8. Various legislative provisions are also in this rules plan. The sixty page rules package - which can be read here - and a section-by-section analysis here - also has some legislative items tucked into it. The plan would make in order the funding bills that Democrats want to pass to end the partial government shutdown which started on December 22. It would also basically end any votes on raising the debt limit on the House floor, "deeming" a separate resolution that suspends that debt limit through September 30 of the budget year, and sends that on to the Senate - what is known as the "Gephardt Rule," after ex-Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO). The rules plan also does away with the simple motion to table a measure on the War Powers Act - in other words, it would prevent the majority from quickly blocking votes on efforts to force debate on the use of U.S. military force, as just happened a few weeks ago when Republicans in the House blocked action on any plan dealing with an end to U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia in the civil war in Yemen. The plan also makes several technical changes in the most recent budget agreement from 2018. My father always told me technical changes are never done just because a comma needs to be moved.

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9. PAYGO is back. Dynamic scoring is out. For you Legislative Nerds on Capitol Hill, this one might get talked about at lunch on Wednesday - while for much of the country, no one will notice. But the new Democratic rules package will again institute what are known as "pay-as-you-go" rules, which require some semblance of budgetary order in the House. If you are going to add spending, and it increases the deficit, then you need to offset that, and find a way to pay for it. That's not exactly what some Democratic activists were hoping for in the Democratic rules package. Also, the use of 'dynamic scoring' to calculate how tax policy changes impact the budget deficit will no longer be allowed. Expect the PAYGO change to draw some fire from more liberal Democrats who believe it would stand in the way of social safety net legislation.

10. A new "Consensus Calendar." This rules change would allow pieces of legislation which are backed by a veto-proof majority in the House of 290 votes, to get time on the floor for debate and a vote. Along with changes in the Discharge Petition process, the new rules are designed to open up new avenues to get bills and resolutions to the floor which otherwise might be squashed by the majority party. More than likely, these plans would allow votes on issues that have extra support among the minority party - but could also pave the way for bipartisan legislation that cuts across both parties, and gets around opposition within the leadership.

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This plan is expected to be voted on Thursday, after the vote on elevating Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to the post of Speaker of the House.

Pelosi will be the first person to regain the post of Speaker - after serving time in the minority - since Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-TX) did that in the 1950's, when the House chamber switched between Democrat and Republican control.

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  • The Georgia Tech community is mourning the loss of Brandon Adams, a football player who died on Saturday. >> Read more trending news  Adams, a senior defensive tackle and business administration major, died in Atlanta at the age of 21, according to the school. Memorial service information has not been released. Adams is survived by his mother, Lisa Greer, his stepfather, Reginald Woods, and his sister, Rian. Adams grew up in Brentwood, Tennessee and Georgia Tech recruited him from Brentwood Academy in 2016. The defensive tackle had a career year in 2018 for the Yellow Jackets, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution named Adams a player to watch this spring.  Spring practice for Georgia Tech was set to begin Tuesday morning. Here are the statements from Georgia Tech officials, as well as tributes from coaches and teammates.  Todd Stansbury, Georgia Tech director of athletics: “On behalf of the entire Georgia Tech athletics family, I offer my deepest condolences to Brandon’s family and friends, including his past and present coaches, and his brothers in the Georgia Tech football family. As we mourn the loss of such an incredible young life, we are also here to support Brandon’s family and friends, his past and present coaches and his brothers within the Georgia Tech football family in any way that we can. Please join us in keeping Brandon and everyone who loved him in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.” Geoff Collins, Georgia Teach head coach: “Our entire Georgia Tech football family is heartbroken by the news of Brandon’s passing. In the short time that I have had the privilege and honor of knowing Brandon, I admired and respected him, first and foremost as a terrific human being, but also as an outstanding teammate and leader. Jennifer and I offer our thoughts, prayers and unconditional support to his parents, Lisa and Reginald, his sister, Rian, and all of his family and friends, especially his brothers in our football program.” Georgia Tech President G. P. “Bud” Peterson: “All of us here at Georgia Tech send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Brandon Adams. We ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers.” Former Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson: Former Brentwood Academy teammate, Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey: Georgia Tech offensive guard Michael Minihan
  • American Airlines announced Sunday it will cancel more flights that were scheduled on the carrier's fleet of Boeing 737 Max planes. This could go on for a month, as the planes remain grounded worldwide after two deadly crashes and concerns over safety features. >> Read more trending news  American Airlines said it is still waiting to hear back from regulating authorities like the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board that would allow the 24 Boeing 737 Max aircraft in their fleet to resume flying. A spokesperson said the airline proactively decided to cancel 90 flights each day through April 24, which is an extension of the 85 flights that have been canceled every day since the aircraft was grounded. Initially, the cancellations were scheduled to last through March 28.  The advance cancellation is supposed to give customers better rebooking options.  American Airlines said it will be contacting customers affected directly by email or telephone but, not all flights previously scheduled on a Max will be canceled. Officials said they are working to substitute other aircrafts.  It is still important to note, if your flight was not scheduled to be on a Max, you still may be affected.  The airline said it will be using different aircrafts to cover Max routes. The goal, they said, is to impact the smallest number of people.  'Safety is the No. 1 thing. If I got bumped off my flight, even though I’m a paying passenger, oh, absolutely, it would be very, very frustrating. After finding out what you're telling me, I'm definitely going to make sure my flight is not canceled,' traveler Linda Wahe said.  'I mean, that's a big deal for travelers. You know, you put them in a bad spot if they need to get somewhere quick, but then again, safety. You want to make sure while you're in the air that safety is the main concern,' traveler Zachary James said. 'Just good for them to look out for them and protecting the consumer, that shows the passengers that safety is on their minds, so that's good for American Airlines to be doing that.'  American Airlines said if your flight was canceled and you do not want to rebook, you may request a full refund.
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller delivered the results of an investigation into possible collusion in the 2016 presidential election to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, ending a two-year saga that, at times, pitted the president against his own Justice Department.  >> Read more trending news  On Sunday, the Department of Justice delivered a summary to the House Judiciary Committee.  >> Barr: Mueller found no evidence of Trump-Russia conspiracy Update 7:45 p.m. EDT March 24: Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein called Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary on the Mueller report “inadequate.” Feinstein said in a statement Sunday that Barr’s summary “demonstrates why Congress needs to obtain the full report and underlying evidence.” She also said she’ll call on Barr to release the whole report and underlying material to Congress for proper Congressional oversight of the investigation. Feinstein said Barr was obviously biased in his summary of the report. “Mueller elected to describe the facts, leaving it to Attorney General Barr to decide whether the president committed a crime. However, months ahead of his nomination,  Barr wrote a 19-page memo concluding the president couldn’t commit obstruction, so it’s no surprise he reached the same conclusion now,” she said in the statement. Update 7:00 p.m. EDT March 24: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement on Attorney General William Barr’s summary of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report. Pelosi and Schumer said Barr’s letter “raises as many questions as it answers.” The pair are calling for the Justice Department to release the full report. “The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public,” Schumer said on social media. The statement calls into question Barr’s ability to be objective about the Mueller report. “Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report,” according to Pelosi and Schumer’s statement. “And most obviously, for the president to say he is completely exonerated directly contradicts the words of Mr. Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility,” the statement said. Update 6:00 p.m. EDT March 24: The Mueller report is divided into two parts, according to the summary Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress Sunday. The first part of the report describes the Mueller team’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and outlines Russia’s attempts to influence the election, including the crimes committed by people associated with the Russian government, Barr said. A primary focus for the Mueller team was whether any Americans, and specifically associates of President Donald Trump, worked with the Russians in interfering with the election, which would be a federal crime. “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” according to the Mueller report. >> Related: Mueller report: Trump claims 'Complete and Total’ exoneration The second part of the report, according to Barr’s summary, focuses on whether Trump obstructed justice.  The Mueller report leaves “unresolved whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Barr said in his summary. “While the report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” on obstruction allegations, Barr said. Mueller left a decision on obstruction of justice charges against Trump to the Justice Department. Barr confirmed he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided that Trump’s conduct did not constitute a crime. >> Related: What is in the Mueller report? Update 5:20 p.m. EDT March 24: The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, responded to President Donald Trump’s statement Sunday afternoon that the Mueller report offered him “complete and total exoneration.” Nadler disputed Trump’s characterization of the report, clarifying what Mueller actually said in the report. “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,’” Nadler said Nadler also confirmed his plan to call Attorney General William Barr to testify before the committee. “In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before (the House Judiciary Committee) in the near future, Nadler said on Twitter. Update 5:10 p.m. EDT March 24: Attorney General William Barr detailed the resources special prosecutor Robert Mueller used during his two-year investigation in his summary of the report to Congress. Barr said the Mueller team “employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.” Barr said Mueller’s report also does not recommend any further indictments. Update 4:50 p.m. EDT March 24: President Donald Trump and members of his administration feel vindicated by the Mueller report. Trump just sent his first tweet on the report since Robert Mueller sent it to the Justice Department on Friday. “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!,” the president wrote. His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued this statement after Attorney General William Barr sent a summary of Mueller’s report to Congress Sunday afternoon. 'The Special Counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction. AG Barr and DAG Rosenstein further determined there was no obstruction. The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States.” Update 4:15 p.m. EDT March 24: The summary included these points: -The investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller did not find President Donald Trump or any of his campaign team coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, according to a summary Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress Sunday. -The probe also did not find sufficient evidence that the president illegally obstructed justice, but the Mueller team stopped short of exonerating the president, according to The Associated Press.  -Barr’s summary said Mueller did not reach any conclusions on the president’s conduct. -Barr also said in the summary that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not consider constitutional questions relating to criminal charges against a sitting president in reaching their conclusion, the AP reported. UPDATE 3:30 p.m. EDT March 24: Rep. Jerry Nadler said the Department of Justice issued a letter saying it is “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgement” in terms of the findings in the report. Related: What is in the Mueller report? Nadler tweeted quotes from the letter, which can be read in full here. UPDATE March 24 3:10 p.m. EDT: Congress has been told to expect a Mueller report summary with in the hour, The Associated Press reported, according to two unnamed sources familiar with plans from the Justice Department. UPDATE 2:30 p.m. EDT: President Donald Trump has been relatively quiet leading up to the release of the report, according to The Associated Press. Sources not authorized to speak publicly claim Trump is relieved no new indictments have come from the probe. The AP reported that Trump has been in Palm Beach, Florida, over the weekend, golfing and spending time with family. He’s also been less engaged on Twitter, only posting “Good Morning, Have A Great Day!” and “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Sunday morning. UPDATE 9 p.m. EDT March 23:  Attorney General William Barr scoured special counsel Robert Mueller’s confidential report on the Russia investigation with his advisers Saturday, deciding how much Congress and the American public will get to see about the two-year probe into President Donald Trump and Moscow’s efforts to elect him, according to The Associated Press. Barr was on pace to release his first summary of Mueller’s findings on Sunday, people familiar with the process said. UPDATE 1:50 p.m. EDT March 23: Congress will not receive a summary of Mueller’s findings  Saturday, multiple media outlets have reported. The Washington Post cited a “senior Justice Department official” for this information, while Politico tweeted that “two sources familiar with the discussion” confirmed the news. President Trump flew Friday to his Mar-a-Lago resort with senior White House officials and lawyers, The Washington Post reported. Original report: The delivery of the report to Barr officially concludes the probe that has cast a shadow over the Trump administration from its earliest days. >> Read more trending news  Trump, who flew to Florida on Friday, has not yet commented on the report. Press secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House would not be seeing the report -- at least not for now. Barr, in a one-page letter, told Congressional leaders he would be able to advise them of the “principal conclusions” of the report as soon as this weekend. In the letter, Barr confirmed that there was no requests made by Mueller to take a specific action – such as subpoenaing a witness – that was not granted by the DOJ. “There were no such instances during the Special Counsel’s investigation.' Related: Read the letter William Barr sent to members of Congress It is up to Barr how much of the report Congress or the public will be able to see. Trump has said he would not care if the report was released to the public. According to an anonymous DOJ source, there will be no further indictments born out of the investigation, meaning Mueller’s work is done. Related: Who has Robert Mueller already indicted in his investigation? Since the investigation began in May of 2017, Mueller’s team of prosecutors has indicted or accepted plea deals from 35 people. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, issued a joint statement, saying “it is imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress. . . . The American people have a right to the truth.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced on Instagram that he is retiring from football following the team's Super Bowl LIII win, ending his historic nine-year NFL career. >> Read more trending news  Gronkowski was selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Patriots, the team he spent his entire professional career with, following his collegiate career at Arizona. He quickly became a favorite target of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, hauling in 10 touchdowns on 42 receptions throughout his rookie campaign. He followed that up with a historic season, starting all 16 of the team's games in 2011 while compiling 17 touchdowns on 90 receptions for 1,327 yards. His season total for receiving yards stood tall in the record books until the 2018 season, where two tight ends surpassed the mark. Gronkowski battled injuries for multiple seasons throughout his career, but still managed to put together double-digit touchdown totals in five of his nine seasons in the league, the most by a tight end in NFL history. He also set the team record for overall touchdowns in his career, surpassing Stanley Morgan in both overall touchdowns and receiving touchdowns. The tight end won three Super Bowls in his career, helping the Patriots take down the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. He was also a part of the Super Bowl LI roster that put together an incredible comeback to win against the Atlanta Falcons, but did not play due to injury. >> Related: Mass. woman awaiting heart, kidney transplant meets Gronk The thing most Patriots fans will remember about Gronkowski, though, will be his personality. An ever-charismatic enigma, Gronkowski was a memorable quote machine, winning the hearts of fans around the country with his persona off the field. >> Related: Rob Gronkowski shaves his head for kids with cancer at Buzz Off event Whether it was a Dunkin' commercial with David Ortiz, appearances in movies, memorable moments during championship parades or his hilarious thoughts in press conferences and interviews, Gronkowski gained quite the reputation around New England with all of his antics off the field. Gronkowski also had an impact on the community when he wasn't dominating on the football field, winning the Ron Burton Community Service Award in 2016, named after the first player drafted by the team. Burton was known as a community leader, and the team said his 'widespread charitable work was a model for how a Patriots player can make an impact off the field.' >> Related: Gronk announces he will play for the Patriots this season He also participated in many community events throughout his time in New England, and frequently 'buzzed off' his hair for kids with cancer at events during his summers. Gronkowski faced a lot of questions later in his career as injuries piled up, with retirement rumors swirling following the 2017 season.  However, Gronkowski decided to return to the field for the 2018 season, with his performance not meeting what many Patriots fans were used to throughout his career. His targets went down, he didn't find the end zone as much and things had changed. Following the season, Gronkowski decided he had done enough, wrapping up his career in a Patriots uniform with the final decision to hang up the cleats. With a faulty back and a body that's gone under the knife countless times over the last 15 years, Gronkowski is now forced to close the book on a Hall of Fame-worthy career. >> Related: Report: Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski to consider retirement again after playoffs From here on out, Gronkowski will enjoy an eternal spot as one of the league's all-time greats, a three-time Super Bowl champion and an unforgettable cog in New England's championship machine.
  • President Donald Trump said Sunday the release of a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into possible collusion and Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election completely exonerated him of collusion and obstruction.  >> Read more trending news  “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION,” Trump tweeted Sunday.  >>Read Mueller report: DOJ releases summary U.S. Attorney General William Barr released the four-page letter Sunday.  Barr wrote that the special counsel stated 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
  • A brief summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was released Sunday.  >> Read more trending news  Here is the four-page letter Attorney General William Barr sent to members of Congress.