Key Changes to House Rules 2009, 111th Congress

In one of the first official acts of the 111th Congress, the House adopted a Democratic package (H Res 5) setting the chamber’s rules for operation. In the resolution, adopted 242-181 on the opening day of the session, January 6, 2009, Democrats made several significant changes to previous chamber rules.
Term Limits for Committee Chairs
Elimination of the six-year term limit for committee chairmen, established in 1995 when Republicans took control of the House.
Motions to Recommit
Restrictions on the minority’s ability to order a bill reported back to committee. Under the new rules, the bills can no longer be reported back “promptly,” a vague term that has meant “never” in practice. Now, any vote to recommit an amended bill must include instructions that it be returned to the floor “forthwith,” meaning the House must vote on the amended bill within minutes.
Time Limit on Roll Calls
Rescission of a rule adopted in the 110th Congress that barred holding votes open with the intent of changing the outcome.
Pay-As-You-Go Budget Requirements
The ability to attach an emergency designation to entitlement spending bills that exempts those measures from pay-as-you-go mandates. A bill that does not meet pay-as-you-go requirements will be allowed to be linked procedurally with another piece of legislation that does have offsets. Legislation may receive an emergency designation “if such provisions are necessary to respond to an act of war, an act of terrorism, a natural disaster, or a period of sustained low economic growth.”
Medicare ‘Trigger’
Nullification, for the purposes of the 111th Congress, the requirement in the 2003 prescription drug law (PL 108-173) that if 45 percent or more of Medicare’s funding comes from general tax revenues for two years in a row, the president must submit — and Congress debate — legislation to slow spending.
Source: CQ Weekly, January 12, 2009

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