This Week in Congress

The 116th Congress convenes tomorrow. The main order of business will be electing a new House Speaker and passing the rules package for the new Congress. One good thing in the rules package is that it changes the “three-day” rule to 72 hours so big bills can no longer be posted online at 11:55 pm Monday and voted on at 10 am Wednesday. Instead they must be allowed a full 72 hours before voting.

The rules also establish a “Climate Crisis” Committee to draft legislation on climate change. This shows how seriously the new House majority takes this opportunity to seize power over our economic and personal lives in the name of climate change.

The rules remove term limits for committee chairs and create a new “consensus” calendar for bills with over 290 cosponsors that have not been voted out of committee. This will limit the ability of committee chairs to block legislation that has overwhelming support.

The new rules also repeal the requirement that the Congressional Budget Office and The Joint Committee on Taxation take into account the growth effects of tax policy so as to minimize the “revenue loss” from tax cuts.

They repealed the rule allowing representatives to raise a point of order against a bill or amendment that increases spending without offsets and the rule requiring a three-fifths vote to raise taxes — so the rules make it more difficult to cut taxes but easier to raise spending.

The new rules reinstated the “Gephardt” rule, which suspends the debt limit when the House passes a budget, forbid making bills exceeding Congress’ authority under the War Powers Act subject to a point of order so they have to be voted on, authorize the Speaker to engage in legal action to defend ObamaCare, and challenge any action by the administration to impose new work requirements on the food stamp program.

Finally, the new rules establish a whistleblower omnibus to ensure House offices are prepared to properly handle whistleblower revelations.

The House will also consider legislation to end the government shutdown this week. The legislation funds five of the six federal departments that Congress did not appropriate money for (Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Science, Financial Services and General Government, Interior, Foreign Operations, State, Transportation and HUD). The Department of Homeland Security is funded through February 9 to allow continued negotiations on the border wall. However, since the plan does not fund the wall at the presidents requested level of $5 billion, it is unlikely he will sign it. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not bring any spending bill to the Senate floor that the president will not sign.

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