Just the Facts
Five Facts on Member Initiatives to Solve Constituent Priorities
By No Labels
August 1, 2018 | Blog
On July 25, members of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus unveiled their Break the Gridlock rules reform package, which is designed to encourage bipartisan cooperation and “make Congress work more effectively for the American people.” One of the four main goals of the package is to “foster passage of member initiatives solving constituent priorities.” This goal includes proposals that would incentive members to work towards bipartisan support of legislation, and includes establishing a bipartisan annual joint meeting at the beginning of each Congress. A joint meeting has happened once this Congress – and it was for the visit by French President Emmanuel Macron. Here are five facts on the specific measures the Problem Solvers Caucus proposes to advance this goal.
Any legislation that gains at least 290 co-sponsors two-thirds of members, or a majority of each party, must be marked up by its relevant committees and reported to the Rules Committee.
Under this proposal, the Rules Committee must report a rule, for consideration of a bill, unless the majority plus one of the committee’s members rejects the rule. This proposal also sets a time requirement of 30 legislative days for the relevant committees to mark up the Bill. This rule change is significant because, under current rules, legislation can easily be stalled in committee or by the leadership-controlled Rules Committee— even if the majority of House members support the bill. This proposal would ensure that legislation with broad bipartisan support would have to receive serious consideration.
Any germane amendment offered to a bill with a structured rule that has bipartisan support must be allowed floor consideration by the Rules Committee.
A germane amendment is an amendment that directly relates to the subject of the bill itself, such as an amendment addressing pre-existing conditions to a bill on health care. This proposal means that the Rules Committee cannot prevent amendments from being considered and debated on the floor of the House if the proposed amendment has the support of at least 20 Republican and 20 Democratic cosponsors. This measure will ensure that amendments with bipartisan support cannot be blocked by a faction within either party and will receive adequate consideration.
Ensures that committee-passed bills get to the House floor by allowing for privileged consideration of such bills after a gestation period.
The speaker of the House is responsible for setting the legislative agenda and can prove a cumbersome roadblock for legislation that does not have his or her support. Thus, even if a bill gets through all relevant committees, it might not receive consideration on the House floor. However, bills that are given “privileged” consideration can supersede or interrupt the regular order of business. Ultimately, this ensures the speaker cannot indefinitely block legislation with committee support from being considered on the House floor.
Once per session, all members of Congress shall be granted a markup on at least one piece of legislation, as designated by the member, that has at least one cosponsor from the opposite party and is referred to a committee on which they serve.
This empowers rank-and-file members to work to gain bipartisan support for their individual pieces of legislation. Currently, it is difficult for a member of Congress to draw attention towards their piece of proposed legislation especially if it is not able to garner bipartisan support.
Hold a bipartisan annual joint meeting at the U.S. Capitol at the beginning of each Congress to discuss the term’s legislative agenda and help encourage bipartisan cooperation.
Before the House Problem Solvers Caucus, there was no official or unofficial forum that allowed Republicans and Democrats to freely discuss problems facing the nation. The Break the Gridlock reform package proposes that the entire Congress meet at the beginning of each cycle, regardless of chamber or party. Members spend less and less time in Washington, making it more difficult to foster bipartisan relationships and legislation – particularly between the House and the Senate. The current Congress has only held one joint meeting, which featured an address from French President Emmanuel Macron.