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House Republican leaders defended rank-and-file members whose procedural tactic used to protest majority rule changes led Democrats to pull 13 bills from consideration on the floor Monday evening.
The GOP members asked that bipartisan bills that usually sail through the House on voice votes instead be subject to lengthy roll call votes, including legislation honoring Capitol police for their efforts during the Jan. 6 riots and several Republican bills. Given the late start time and Covid-19 precautions, which limit the number of lawmakers in the chamber, voting could have gone into the early morning.
Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) confirmed Tuesday that party leaders weren’t involved in the move, but he stood by it and said Republicans are frustrated with a change in House rules that made it more difficult for them to influence legislation.
“Leadership has been very vocal on the Republican side that we want an open congressional process,” Scalise said.
Among the specific concerns Republicans have are changes to the motion to recommit, which previously allowed members of the minority to add last-minute amendments to legislation, provided they could peel off a few votes from the majority. Taking the teeth out of that tactic came as Democrats also temporarily allowed bills the House passed in the 116th Congress to skip the committee process and go straight to the full House for a vote.
And it led to the hijacking of the process used to pass noncontroversial bills — “suspension of the rules,” which limits floor debate, bars amendments, and requires a two-thirds majority.
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told reporters that the approach of stretching out those votes was a legitimate one.
“The majority needs to understand we are not interested in a situation where they have taken away so many rights of the minority and they expect things are going to operate smoothly,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that this is going on.”
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that passing suspension bills was one of the few bipartisan processes remaining. Hoyer said he plans to speak to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on the issue.
“There’s a lot of disagreement and anger and disappointment on both sides,” Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday. “But I am trying to preclude that from adversely affecting a bipartisan procedure that works well.”
One of the lawmakers who threatened a roll call vote, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) told reporters that, for now, asking for longer votes won’t be an ongoing thing. Rather, it was meant to start a conversation about how the House functions.
“We’ll see what happens.” he told reporters. “We’re just having a conversation. We need to fix the House is the bottom line.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org