Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Open rules

The new Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner, opened the new session of Congress with the following pledge.
To my colleagues in the majority, my message is this: we will honor our Pledge to America, built through a process of listening to the people, and we will stand firm on the Constitutional principles that built our party, and built a nation. We will do these things, however, in a manner that restores and respects the time-honored right of the minority to an honest debate and a fair, open process.

To my friends in the minority, I offer a commitment. Openness – once a tradition of this institution, but increasingly scarce in recent decades, will be the new standard. There were no open rules in the House in the last Congress. In this one, there will be many. With this restored openness, however, will come a restored responsibility. You will not have the right to willfully disrupt the proceedings of the People's House. But you will always have the right to a robust debate in open process that allows you to represent your constituents. . .to make your case, offer alternatives, and be heard.
"Open rules" for debate refer to the ability to offer amendments to legislation from the floor of the House. Sen. Addison Mitchell McConnell, Jr., the Republican leader in the Senate has also called for more leeway to offer amendments.

We'll soon see whether the Republican leadership will actually stand by these words. The House is scheduled to debate and vote on a resolution to repeal the Affordable Care Act next Friday. Democrats want to offer amendments to the resolution. However, the Republican Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, has indicated that amendments won't be allowed.

Republicans have already exempted the resolution from their own rules regarding legislation to not add to the deficit. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that repeal will add $143 billion to the national debt over the next 10 years.

It looks like their "open rules" pledge will also fall by the wayside.