Pelosi Turns Back the Clock on House RulesSubmitted by christopher X on Sat, 01/10/2009 - 14:46
Gone are term limits for committee chairmen, a big comeback for seniority over merit. Cost containment measures on Medicare, one of the fastest growing programs, are simply suspended for this Congress.
Tax increases now will be easier to pass, because opponents will not be allowed to offer a simple motion to strike any increase without making up for the "lost revenue." In addition, tax cuts are made more difficult, because they cannot be offset with spending cuts. The new rules will mean that the only way to push for a tax cut will be to propose a tax increase elsewhere.
Democratic leaders said these changes were needed to make the legislative train run faster. "Congress has to accomplish things," said Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern of the Rules Committee. "This is designed to help us do just that."
To further grease the wheels, Democrats have also emasculated the "motion to recommit" -- a procedural safeguard first given to the minority a century ago after a rebellion against tyrannical GOP Speaker Joe Cannon. It has been used by both parties to offer motions to "recommit" or send back bills on the floor to the relevant committees.(more at link)
Term limits on committee chairs -- part of the 1994 GOP "Contract With America" -- modified a seniority system that entrenched power in a handful of members. Overall, it has helped inject new ideas and merit into Congress. But Democratic bulls wanted their old power back, so now longevity will once again determine who runs the show. Can this really be the "change" that voters wanted last November? Wags are already joking that Democrats are really delivering "senility you can believe in."
Ironically, some of the biggest losers from the Pelosi rules changes will be fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats. The "pay-go" rules they fought so hard for two years ago -- to require new spending proposals be balanced with additional revenue or cuts elsewhere -- have been gutted. And no term limits will mean they will have to stand in line for a taste of real power.
"All those nice pro-life, gun-owning young Democrats recruited to run by Rahm Emanuel will never have any real influence now," says Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform. "They were useful in getting Democrats a majority but now they'll be in the back of the bus." (article cut short-full article at the link above)