House Democrats unveiled a draft rules package Thursday for how they would govern the chamber when they take over the majority in the new Congress next year.
The changes are large and small, from a requirement to post legislation at least 72 hours before action is taken to restoring some floor rights for the resident commissioner from Puerto Rico and other nonvoting delegates.
One change, proposed by Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who is Muslim, clarifies the 180-year-old rule against wearing hats on the House floor to allow for religious headwear, including headscarves.
The rules package is traditionally the first vote of the new Congress. It is considered a reflection of a party’s priorities and influences legislation.
The draft from incoming Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and backed by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, was presented Thursday as Democrats met privately to prepare for the new year.
The topics touch on several areas — budgeting, oversight, diversity and the legislative process, among others.
It ensures that the first bill of the new Congress, H.R. 1, will be a sweeping package of good-government reforms, with provisions on voting rights and campaign finance. It is being crafted by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md.
Many of the rules being proposed sweep away those Republicans had put in place when they took over the majority after the 2010 elections.
For example, Democrats would end the GOP’s practice of using so-called dynamic scoring to count the revenue that would come from expected economic growth to help offset the costs of a bill. Republicans used dynamic scoring last year to help pass tax cuts.
The Democrats would also revert back to the Gephardt Rule, named after former Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, which automatically allows for increases in the nation’s debt limit as part of passing the annual budget. It’s a way to reduce the political showdowns that have become common over the vote to raise the government’s borrowing authority.
Other proposed rules, in the case of the 72-hour posting, amplify what the GOP majority had set out to do with their own three-day rule, which sometimes resulted in a Republican bill being posted minutes before midnight to allow for a vote as quickly as possible.
The package would stand up Pelosi’s new office of diversity, which is expected to help hire and promote minorities to jobs on Capitol Hill, an effort that Democrats started right before they lost the majority in 2010. And it would change the name of the Education and Workforce Committee back to Education and Labor, in a nod to unions.
As Congress struggles to update its sexual harassment laws, it would clarify that nondisclosure agreements “cannot prohibit a staffer from speaking” to the compliance or ethics offices.
The package remains a work in progress, aides said. McGovern has been convening lawmakers for weeks to gather input, and the 12-page document is stamped throughout with invitations — “Your Idea Here” — for more input.
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