We shall file this one under the already crowded, “Careful what you wish for” category. CQ Politics reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pondering some rule changes designed to make it harder for the Republican minority to slow down the Democratic majority’s efforts to push through new legislation.
An early partisan skirmish is likely in the House next week, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to move a rules package that would curb the GOP’s ability to derail legislation through a parliamentary maneuver it has used over the past two years.
Democratic leaders are taking a hard look at preventing the minority party from scoring easy political points with motions to recommit a bill to committee with instructions to make contentious language changes and then report it back to the House “promptly.” In the outgoing Congress, “promptly’’ has meant an indefinite hold, because committees were not willing to adopt poison-pill amendments sponsored by the minority.
Most motions to recommit require instead that an amended bill be returned to the floor “forthwith,” which means within minutes.
The arcane rules of order in Congress are ripe with tools and pitfalls, many of which have been used in ways which the original authors never intended. But most of them are also there for a reason. Be that as it may, there is a larger issue at hand. As we discussed yesterday, there is an inherent danger when the majority seeks to limit the options and power of the minority, that being the fact that you will, eventually, find yourself on the other end of the gun.
During the first half of this decade, I was one of many voices urging caution on the Republicans when they discussed implementing the “nuclear option” to stop Senate Democrats from holding up proceedings with the threat of a filibuster or blocking cloture. Similarly, many of us warned President Bush against his habitual use of signing statements to thwart legislation designed to limit his actions. When you successfully grab for such power, you also cede it to your opponents (who will eventually regain control). Clearly Speaker Pelosi has failed to learn from these lessons, if one of her first moves in the new Congress would be to push forward rules changes designed to do just that.
Forecasts for the nation’s economic future are looking shaky at best. The natives are restless and our citizens seem to revel in an attitude of “throw the bums out” when they perceive the nation to be experiencing hard times. In two or four years, you may suddenly find the Republicans back in charge on the Hill and, when that happens, they will be holding the shiny new gun you’re considering taking for yourselves. Let’s see if you can learn from history this time.