Just the Facts

Five Facts on What the Break the Gridlock Package Does

By No Labels
November 30, 2018 | Blog

On November 28, nine Democratic members of the House Problem Solvers Caucus announced they had reached agreement with likely speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership on an ambitious rules reform package that will create a rare opening for bipartisan legislation in the next Congress. Here are five facts on what the Break the Gridlock package does:

Gives every member a Voice

Often, speakers demand legislation be supported by a majority of the majority to get to the House floor. This practice, informally known as the “Hastert Rule,” has killed many bipartisan deals, including agreements on immigration in 2006 and 2013, that passed the Senate with over 60 votes, but were not even given votes in the House. This provision makes it easier for groups like the Problem Solvers to do an end run around the extremes in both parties who have repeatedly prevented bipartisan legislation from getting to the floor.

Encourages bipartisan amendments

When a speaker puts legislation on the floor under closed rules, it is essentially the speaker saying to members: “Here is the bill. You can’t change it. Take it or leave it.” This provision empowers legislators to actually legislate by making it easier to attach bipartisan amendments to legislation.

Modernizes the discharge petition

A discharge petition is used in the House of Representatives to start a process to force a bill out of committee and to the House floor for a vote. In the current Congress, a Problem Solvers Caucus member helped lead a discharge petition on immigration that almost forced Speaker Paul Ryan to allow an open immigration debate and floor vote on competing immigration proposals. It failed by a few votes. This makes it a bit easier to file such a petition.

Increases committee transparency

The majority party often games the House schedule by giving the minority members and staffs too little time to prepare for important committee meetings. This ensure the minority party has sufficient time to evaluate and debate legislation coming out of their committees.

Reforms the motion to vacate the chair

The obscure “motion to vacate” provision has recently been used by small groups like the Freedom Caucus to effectively hold speakers hostage, by threatening a no confidence vote that could remove a speaker from the position. Under the current House rules, a single member can file the “motion to vacate.” Under this new provision, it requires significantly more members to do it.

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