The just-sworn-in Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, has introduced new rules for how the House will work.
One congressional rules wonk, Norman Ornstein at the American Enterprise Institute, sees problems with some of the changes.
Boehner’s new schedule will give the House two weeks of work followed by one full week off during which lawmakers will spend in their districts.This is supposed to keep them close to their constituents and prevent them from becoming creatures of Washington, but Ornstein sees a big downside to such frequent trips home:
“The concept is a good one. But it leaves me queasy. I have long called for a three weeks on, one week off schedule for two reasons. The first is I want to find ways to encourage members to spend more time together, and to move their families to Washington. The best way to encourage civil discourse is for people to get to know each other as people; it is very hard to call a colleague a treasonous pig if you have spent time with his or her family on the sidelines of a kid’s soccer game. The second is to provide the long and continuous stretches of Congressional sessions that encourage real deliberation and debate, and do not provide the kinds of disincentives for the regular order that the disjointed and limited schedule has set in place.”
In addition, Boehner has made it easier to adopt spending cuts. He will deputize the chairman of the House Budget Committee to unilaterally create spending and revenue limits and caps by committee and enact them simply by publishing them in the Congressional Record.
“This is breathtaking: It demolishes the Congressional budget process in one fell swoop, and it takes away the accountability, openness and deliberation that a regular budget process provides. This is the opposite of accountability; Members, by voting in lockstep to enact a package of rules, will implicitly vote for a budget they have never seen. It will be binding in the House.”
“When individual appropriations come up, any proposal that changes the edicts of Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) by restoring cuts in spending will be ruled out of order. Dramatic and Draconian budget cuts without votes or debate. That is the new open and deliberative House?”