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New Congress, New Rules

The House of Representatives has finally launched the 118th Congress (after 15 rounds of contentious votes for Speaker). One of the first and most important moves of a new majority in power, albeit not something widely focused on, is to amend the rules of the House. The rules package is a mix of technical changes to the operations of the legislative process (everything from how bills are evaluated for cost to how names change for committees) and positioning of priorities for the new majority (everything from the establishment of new committees to fast-tracking key legislative priorities). If for nothing else, a read through the House rules package provides a roadmap to where the new Republican majority is most focused. The package passed mostly along party lines (with one Republican voting in opposition). Here are some of the key provisions included:

Creates New Hurdles to Pass Tax Increases: The new rules require three-fifths of Members to vote in favor of a tax increase for the legislation to pass. While a Republican majority is unlikely to pass a tax increase, this makes Congress even less likely to do so.

Makes Transfers of Public Lands Easier: Land transfers generally have revenue impacts that make them less attractive legislatively. The rules would allow land transfers to states, localities, and tribal entities to be considered as not having revenue impact or creating new budget authority.

Committees Receive New Names and Jurisdictional Changes: The House Committee on Education & Labor and the House Committee on Oversight & Accountability will have new names: the House Committee on Education & Workforce and the House Committee on Oversight & Reform, respectively. Additionally, the rules package creates a new subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Reform – the Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, which will "investigate, make findings, and provide legislative recommendations on the origins of the Coronavirus pandemic." The House Committee on Homeland Security will also get additional jurisdiction over DHS' cybersecurity functions, which will be shared with other committees that have existing jurisdiction over these issues.

Calls for a Vote on a Resolution Creating New Select Committees: The rules package required a vote to establish the Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (passed 365-65), as well as a vote to establish a Select Investigative Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government as part of the Committee on the Judiciary (passed 221-211).

Reverses Collective Bargaining Rights in the House: Rules allowing employees of the House of Representatives to have collective bargaining rights will no longer be available.

Provides for Consideration of Priority Bills: The rules package allows for debate and consideration of legislation around key priorities of the Republican leadership. While these are not likely to get the support necessary for passage in the Senate, they highlight core priorities that have been promised to advance early in the new Congress:

  • A bill to rescind funding made available to the Internal Revenue Service to hire over 80,000 new IRS agents.

  • A bill to authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend the entry of aliens, and for other purposes.

  • A bill to prohibit the Secretary of Energy from sending petroleum products from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China, and for other purposes.

  • A bill to amend the Omnibus Crime Control & Safe Streets Act to direct district attorney and prosecutors offices to report to the Attorney General, and for other purposes.

  • A bill to require the national instant criminal background check system to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the relevant state and local law enforcement agencies whenever the information available to the system indicates that a person illegally or unlawfully in the United States may be attempting to receive a firearm.

  • A bill to prohibit taxpayer funded abortions.

  • A bill to prohibit a healthcare practitioner from failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.

The new rules of the House of Representatives will certainly adjust the process and focus on the 118th Congress. The changes made will develop a strong pathway for Republicans to advance their legislative and oversight agenda. However, the reality remains that despite new committees, new rules, and new priorities, bipartisanship is still needed to pass laws given the current political landscape.


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