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Sunday, April 25, 2021

House Rules Tighten

 Donald Wolfensberger at The Hill:

At the beginning of this Congress the Democrats included in their House rules package a provision that forbade the minority's right to offer an amendment in its motion to recommit at the end of a bill's consideration - a right dating back to 1909. The reason: the minority was using far too many of its motions to score political points rather than to improve the legislation. Moreover, the majority pointed out, even in those instances in which the minority's motion prevailed, minority members still voted against the underlying bill.
One would think that by eviscerating the minority's right to offer a final amendment to a bill in its motion to recommit, the majority would be more generous in allowing the minority to offer amendments during the course of the normal amendment process.

The problem is, there is no longer a "normal" or "regular" amendment process. The old, open amendment rules have gone the way of the dodo, last seen in the 114th Congress (2015-16) when just eight bills (5 percent) with special rules were considered under open rules. Since then, only structured and closed rules have been granted by the Rules Committee, the former allowing only those amendments specified in the Rules Committee's report on the rule.

How has the minority fared there? In the 116th Congress (2019-2020), the first time Democrats have been back in the majority, 46 percent of the special rules were structured and the other 54 percent were closed to all amendments. In the current 117th Congress so far, only 38 percent of the special rules were structured and the other 62 percent have been closed.