Pelosi’s Revealing House Rules – WSJ

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addresses the first session of the 117th Congress on Capitol Hill on Jan. 3.


erin scott/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images


Nancy Pelosi

knows she has a narrow majority in the new House, and she’s already taking steps to make sure she can still roll over the opposition.

Most media attention on the 45 pages of revised House rules for the 117th Congress has focused on the woke provisions. The Democrats banned from the rules document such gendered terms as “father” or “daughter,” in favor of “parent” and “child.” This has rightly earned derision, though not enough. The rules also create a new Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, which is best understood as a committee to justify higher taxes and a larger entitlement state. Isn’t that every committee?

More important for legislation, however, the rules all but eliminate what is called the motion to recommit. This legislative tool has existed since the first Congress, and for nearly 90 years it has allowed the minority party to offer the last amendment to legislation. The motions typically fail, but they are a way for the minority to highlight and provoke a debate on controversial questions.

Last month, for instance, Arizona Republican

Debbie Lesko

offered a motion to recommit to the Democratic bill legalizing marijuana. Her provision would have guaranteed the right of private companies to test employees or applicants for the drug. Her motion failed, but 11 House Democrats voted with her.

With a majority perhaps as small as nine votes, Mrs. Pelosi is clearly worried she could lose such motions. At the demand of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the new rules strip the minority of the ability to use the motions to amend bills. Republicans will only be able to offer motions that send a bill back to committee. This spares swing-district Democrats from difficult votes and reduces Mrs. Pelosi’s chance of defeat on the floor. Even former GOP whip

Tom DeLay

never imposed that one.

The Pelosi rules also carve out two key exceptions to Democratic pay-as-you-go budget promises. Democrats talk up “paygo” every election year, claiming Congress will offset new spending with cuts elsewhere. But Mrs. Pelosi lets paygo lapse when convenient, and her new rules give the House Budget Chairman unilateral authority to exempt from paygo any spending on Covid-19 or climate change.

Paygo is a budget gimmick, and Covid spending isn’t a surprise as an exception. But spending on climate? This is another indication that Democrats plan to use climate as the main political driver of their agenda to expand political control over the economy.

Joe Biden

is appointing climate activists across the government—from energy to transportation to financial regulators. Mrs. Pelosi’s new rule will make it easier to fund this agenda since budget bills that are exempt from paygo would need only 51 votes in the Senate. If Democrats have a Senate majority, this is how they will pass Mr. Biden’s $2 trillion in climate spending.

Mrs. Pelosi calls this “bold reform,” but the better word is brazen. Voters rebuked House Democrats in November by cutting their majority to its narrowest since the 1940s, but don’t expect that to slow them on their mission to transform America.

Potomac Watch: Since Nancy Pelosi retook the speaker’s gavel in 2019, her top priority has been remaking the electoral system. The coronavirus gave her a boost. Images: Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the January 6, 2021, print edition.


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