Adopting Democrats' House Rules for the 117th Congress: Banning Gendered Language & Blocking Minority Amendments (H. Res. 8)
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What is H. Res. 8?
(Updated February 3, 2022)
This resolution would adopt the rules of the House of Representatives for the 117th Congress, including matters such as prohibiting the minority from having an opportunity to propose an amendment, banning the use of gendered language, and extending the use of proxy voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. A breakdown of its various provisions can be found below.
A motion to recommit (or commit) a bill or joint resolution to committee could only be made without instructions and would not be debatable. Historically, the motion to recommit (MTR) has served as the final — and sometimes only — opportunity for the minority party to offer an amendment to legislation while it’s on the floor before passage or send the bill back to committee. If adopted, these rules would ban the ability of the minority to force a vote on an amendment to the bill.
The rules package would require the use of pronouns, familial relationship terminology, and other references to gender that are inclusive of all gender identities. For example, the words “mother” and “father” would be banned and replaced with “parent”; “daughter” and “son” would be banned in favor of “child”; “brother” and “sister” banned for “sibling”; while “aunt” and “uncle” would be banned and replaced with “parent’s sibling”.
Proxy voting would continue in the 117th Congress with minor changes to the rules from 116th Congress that governed the process. Proxy voting was established in 2020 to allow for participation by members who are unable or unwilling to travel to the Capitol during the coronavirus pandemic.
House committees would be required to include discussions of how their work will address issues of inequities on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, or national origin in their oversight plans.
Audio and video of committee proceedings could not be used for any partisan political campaign purpose regardless of the specific technological device or recording medium used. The rules package would also make it a violation of the Code of Official Conduct to electronically disseminate any image, video, or audio file that has been distorted or manipulated with the intent of misleading the public.
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity would be prohibited by the Code of Official Conduct. Non-disclosure settlement agreements couldn’t preclude communication with the Ethics Committee; members would have to personally repay discrimination settlements; there would be mandatory anti-harassment training for all offices; and statements of employee rights and protections would be posted in all offices.
Legislative text would have to be available for a full 72 hours before a bill receives a vote on the House floor (in the 115th Congress the rule was parts of 3 days, so a bill would only need to really be available for 24 hours and two minutes).
This rules package would strike the “PAYGO” rule for budget resolutions, amendments to budget resolutions, or a conference report on a budget resolution that includes reconciliation directives that would have the effect of increasing net direct spending if the policies relate to climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Speaker would be authorized to continue to intervene on behalf of the House in ongoing legal cases, including those related to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) like Texas v. United States.
Committees would have authority to issue subpoenas for documents or testimony related to any person or entity, whether governmental, public, or private, within the U.S. That includes current or former presidents and vice presidents in their official or personal capacities, the White House and related presidential offices in the executive branch.
Lawmakers and House employees would be prohibited from preventing a whistleblower from providing information to congressional ethics bodies, and from retaliating against them for doing so.
Former members, delegates, commissioners, parliamentarians, elected officers of the House, or minority employees nominated as an elected officer of the House would be barred from the Hall of the House if they have been convicted of a crime related to their election to, or service to, the House.
The following select committees would be reauthorized or established:
Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress,
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis,
Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth.
As a simple resolution that adopts the House’s internal rules, this bill wouldn’t advance to the Senate or go to the president’s desk.
Argument in favor
This rules package reflects the priorities of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. It takes steps toward deeper inclusion by banning the use of gendered phrases, and prohibits members from sharing manipulated media meant to mislead the public. Further, it will reform the House’s procedural rules in a way that will protect vulnerable Democrats from being forced to take difficult votes on amendments offered by minority Republicans using the motion to recommit.
The Democrats’ rules package would effectively gut the motion to recommit, a procedural tool that has been part of the House since its inception and has allowed the minority to force a vote on a final amendment for more than 100 years, in a deeply cynical effort to stifle debate over opposing ideas. Given that Democrats may find themselves in the minority in the future, eliminating the motion to recommit is shortsighted. Further, banning the use of gendered phrases like “father” or “daughter” is a pointless effort at political pandering.
The House of Representatives, including its members and their employees; and the CBO.
Cost of H. Res. 8
A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.
In-Depth: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) offered the following statement on the introduction of this rules package:
“These future-focused proposals reflect our priorities as a Caucus and as a Country - including crushing the coronavirus, addressing economic disparity, combating the climate crisis, advancing inclusion, and promoting integrity in government.”
House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) added:
“This proposal doesn’t tinker around the edges of ethics reform. It contains historic ideas to protect whistleblowers and prevent everything from the undue influence of lawbreakers on the House Floor to the dissemination of deepfakes on government accounts. This proposal also shines a light on those struggling to get ahead in America today and ensures we remain focused on the most pressing issues facing our nation.”
Rules Committee Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) offered floor remarks in opposition to this package, particularly the changes to the motion to recommit:
“These changes are some of the harshest and most cynical that I have experienced during my time in Congress. Democratic leadership is suppressing minority rights and paving the way for the Green New Deal by intentionally removing budgetary checks that have been in place for over a decade. The most egregious of these changes is the complete gutting of the motion to recommit. The motion to recommit, or the MTR, is the minority’s right to propose a final amendment before moving to passage. This is a right that has been guaranteed to the minority for well over a century. With today’s changes, the majority is seeking to silence views they are afraid of with no regard for this institution or the American people’s trust in our constitutional responsibility to govern, and govern well. They are taking away the ability to debate a motion to recommit and the ability to offer a motion to recommit with instructions. This completely guts the minority’s ability to offer a last amendment on the floor prior to passage…
Madam Speaker, the motion to recommit has been around since the beginning of the House as an institution, and it has been in its present form since 1909. In fact, in 1919, Representative Abraham Garret of Tennessee noted that “the Motion to Recommit is regarded as so sacred it is one of the few things protected against the Committee on Rules by the general rules of the House.” And when Speaker Pelosi herself was in the minority, she equated the motion to recommit with the right to free speech enshrined in our Constitution! How this majority can now decide that a procedure that is so important it is on par with the guarantee of free speech must be eliminated is beyond my understanding.”
During the 116th Congress, Republicans prevailed on eight motions to recommit that amended Democrats’ legislation, which prompted Democrats to begin considering changes to the motion: The first was a 424-0 vote (with two voting present) on a “forthwith” motion to recommit that amended a bill to withdraw U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen to include language expressing that it’s in the national security interest of the U.S. to combat anti-Semitism around the world. It came about as a way to rebuke anti-Semitic comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who apologized and voted in favor. On another occasion, a motion to recommit to require the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement when unauthorized immigrants attempt to buy firearms succeeded despite Democratic leadership’s objections.
Causes (Motion to Recommit)
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: iStock.com / mrod)
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