As urgent times call for urgent measures, the House Rules Committee last Wednesday pulled the six-alarm emergency cord by sending six major bills to the House floor under a single special rule (a simple House resolution) that barred any and all floor amendments. Exempted from this ban were several leadership-blessed amendments that were self-executed to adoption in the rule, thereby avoiding the need for separate floor votes. The six measures made in order by that closed amendment rule ran the gamut from policing reform, health care amendments and D.C. statehood, to credit scores, community reinvestment regulation disapproval and a ban on home evictions. The sore thumb sticking out in this legislative six-pack was a health care bill originally reported from the Energy and Commerce Committee last March that was just 10 pages long. In its place was substituted a 154-page Rules Committee print that bundled another 23 bills under that same bill number —eight of which had been previously reported from committee as separate bills and 16 others that had not been reported by any committee.
The toll these emergency restrictions is taking on our system of deliberative and representative democracy is enormous. Only time will tell whether this is only a temporary phenomenon or the beginning of a new normal. Yes, necessity is the mother of invention, but not all inventions work for the betterment of mankind
When asked why members of his committee had not been allowed to participate in debating and amending those 16 bills, the chairman of the committee said Republicans would still have opposed the bills anyway. So much for the committee’s Democrats and deliberative lawmaking.