New Radical Rules for a New Radical Congress

COMMENTARY Political Process

New Radical Rules for a New Radical Congress

Jan 4th, 2021 4 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Mike Howell

Senior Advisor, Government Relations

Mike is a senior advisor for Government Relations at The Heritage Foundation.
Nancy Pelosi holds the speaker's gavel in the air on the House floor after becoming speaker of the 117th Congress on January 3, 2021. Bill Clark / Contributor / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

This afternoon, the House of Representatives will vote on a rules package that will govern their processes for the 117th Congress.

The rules give us an insight as to how the speaker intends to govern the House.

Expect more wokeness, rejection of minority input, financial recklessness, and show trials to be the major themes for the next two years.

This afternoon, the House of Representatives will vote on a rules package that will govern their processes for the 117th Congress. This package represents an ultimate power grab by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who was narrowly re-elected by a razor thin vote of 216-209. The rules give us an insight as to how the speaker intends to govern the House. It appears that the far left will be the tail that wags the dog by eviscerating minority rights.

Perhaps the most important proposed rule is the fundamental weakening of the motion to recommit, one of the only tools that are provided to a minority party. The motion to recommit allows members of Congress to prevent or amend a bill before it is voted upon on the House floor.

The motion to recommit tool was used successfully by the previous Republicans in Congress. For example, over two dozen Democrats voted for a Republican motion to recommit on a gun control bill. The motion added immigration language requiring gun sellers to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement when illegal aliens attempt to purchase guns.

Pelosi’s caucus flirted with the idea of eliminating or altering the motion to recommit then, something that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the “nuclear option” for the House. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., chairman of the House Rules Committee, said at the time, “Having not too long ago been in the minority, I want to make sure whatever we’re talking about, that there’s some protection of minority rights.”

Well, obviously the incoming majority could not stand the heat, so all that has been thrown out the window with the proposed new rules package.

The new rules take the teeth out the motion to recommit by making it a simple “motion to delay consideration,” by sending the bill back to the committee of jurisdiction and eliminating any time for debate. 

The new House of Representatives has demonstrated that it will not tolerate any diverse opinions, and have no interest in protecting minority rights in affecting legislation.

Apart from the motion to recommit destruction, the proposed rules also aim to rid the House of what is called “gendered language.” This means that the House rules eliminate the use of terms like father, son, mother, daughter, grandmother, and grandfather.

Pelosi, whose Twitter bio reads in part, “mother, grandmother, dark chocolate connoisseur,” is directing the House to do as she says, not as she does. These changes are celebrated by far-left groups, who are aiming to eliminate all distinction between the sexes, despite the scientific reality that these distinctions exist and matter.

The left also has dreams for major budget-busting, federal-takeover legislation, such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. In order to make that easier, the new rules package exempts certain legislation from what is known as PAYGO, short for “pay as you go.” 

PAYGO, which has long been skirted in Congress, generally requires that new legislation that affects revenues and spending do not increase budget deficits.

This rules package anticipates that several of the highest cost pieces of legislation in our nation’s history would be unsuccessful under PAYGO rules. So, they scrap the rule altogether for legislation dealing with climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic.

When it comes to social media, Pelosi is taking a page out of Big Tech’s book: censor and punish. Members who share “manipulated media,” defined as “any image, video, or audio file that has been distorted or manipulated with intent to mislead the public,” will be subject to reprisal.

The problem with this rule is not that members should be publishing “deep fake” type videos, but with the vague language that can be used to unjustly punish political enemies. For instance, would a Photoshopped image count? A clipped video? A parody? One needs to look no further than Big Tech’s selective censorship to find examples of how such a rule can be abused.

The proposed new rules also go broke for woke by permanently establishing an Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The goal of the office would be to direct and guide House employing offices to “recruit, hire, train, develop, advance, promote, and retain a diverse workforce.”  

Simply stated, this is the first step towards affirmative action and quotas in House staff hiring.

Finally, the proposed rules contain provisions for beefing up congressional oversight authorities, which are in fact constrained by the Constitution as opposed to House rules. Specifically, the rules state that any current and former White House officials can be subpoenaed.

This is head nod to the intent for the House of Representatives to continue their circus-like, vitriolic hearings aimed not at producing legislation but at generating ready-made-for-Twitter viral moments.

All in all, the proposed rules are less of a surprise than a confirmation of what has been expected for the 117th Congress. Expect more wokeness, rejection of minority input, financial recklessness, and show trials to be the major themes for the next two years.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal