The House Republican leadership plans to introduce rule changes that would make it harder for Congress to pass tax increases or close tax loopholes.
Republicans, who are taking over the majority in the House on Wednesday, have proposed a series of rule changes that they plan to make. They include changes in the so-called “pay-as-you-go,” or “pay-go,” rules that the Democratic leadership had put in place in the previous Congress. That rule required that all new spending or tax cuts be paid for with corresponding tax increases, the closing of tax loopholes, or spending cuts.
The Republican majority instead plans to institute a “cut-as-you-go,” or “cut-go,” rule that says any new mandatory spending must be offset with spending cuts, not tax hikes, according to a blog post by spokesman Don Seymour on the Web site of incoming House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
“The new rules will reflect a new culture of fiscal discipline in Congress; no longer will the system be rigged in favor of ever-more (and sometimes automatic) spending hikes,” wrote Seymour.
He noted that the new rules would require legislation to show a long-term budget impact — four decades beyond current rules — to “prevent lawmakers from using accounting gimmicks and sleight of hand to hide the true cost of big government proposals.”
The new rule states that if mandatory spending is increased, spending must be cut by an equal or greater amount elsewhere. Tax increases could not be used to pay for new mandatory spending.
However, the new “cut-go” rule would not apply to House Republicans’ attempt to repeal the health care reform law, according to The New York Times. They plan to introduce a bill to repeal health care reform before President Obama’s State of the Union address later this month. Even though the health care reform law is projected to reduce the federal budget deficit by $140 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Republicans argue that it would add to long-term federal spending by increasing taxes, expanding Medicaid eligibility and subsidizing private insurance.
Other new rules would require lawmakers to cite the Constitutional authority for any piece of legislation. The new session of Congress will begin with a reading of the Constitution, the first time this has occurred in the 221-year history of Congress, according to the Washington Post.
“Legislators will now be required to outline, in the text of a bill, where in the Constitution the federal government is delegated the authority to carry out a given law,” Seymour wrote. “As Boehner said last fall, ‘If we cannot do this much — we should put down the pen and stop right there.’”
New rules would also require all bills to be posted online for public viewing at least three days before a vote. “The days of quickly ramming massive bills through Congress — such as the 'stimulus' that didn’t work and the job-killing national energy tax — are over,” wrote Seymour. “Under the new rules, the House will post all bills online at least three calendar days before a vote, giving lawmakers, the public, and the media a chance to read each proposal and understand its impact. The Sunlight Foundation called the new rule ‘a huge victory for the ReadtheBill movement, and for transparency in the way the House considers legislation.’"
Other new rules call for webcasting committee hearings, twice-annual reports to ensure committees are “engaged in proper legislative and oversight activities,” according to Seymour, posting committee votes online within 48 hours, and more.
Under new House rules, each appropriations bill would be required to have a “spending reduction account.” An amendment to strike money from a portion of a spending bill could be transferred to the account to reduce the actual amount of money appropriated. Currently, amendments to strike spending from a bill reduce the amount allocated to that program or account, but do not lower the overall spending level for the bill. The rule change would also prevent a member from spending savings from a previously adopted amendment to strike spending.
Highway funding, with some exceptions, would now be treated as other general spending and therefore be subject to any member attempt to reduce the spending. Currently, it is against House rules to strike spending for highway or mass transit programs. The rule change would provide an exemption to protect the Highway Trust Fund, ensuring all those revenues continue to go toward highway projects. Other funding sources are not protected in the same way.
Senate Democrats also plan to propose rule changes of their own on the first day of Congress, including rules that would make it harder for senators to filibuster bills and put secret holds on bills and White House nominees. The rule changes in both chambers would be subject to a vote before they could take effect.
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