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January 04, 2011

Boehner's First Act Upon Taking Power: Give Up Some of His Power

I don't know if this is a good idea. It sounds good, I guess, to decentralize power and give backbenchers more of a say, and it sounds good to some, I guess, to give the minority (re: the Democrats) more power.

It's Boehner's attempt to say "We're different; we're consistent; we keep our promises."

Maybe it's a promise that shouldn't have been made.

On Wednesday the new speaker of the House of Representatives plans to offer a package of rule changes that, he says, will give minority-party members more of a say and decentralize power. In short, Ohio Republican Mr. Boehner is promising he'll be a different figure from many speakers throughout history—from Republican Joseph Cannon a century ago to his immediate predecessor, Democrat Nancy Pelosi—who kept a tighter leash.

But there's a reason so many speakers try to keep close control: It works.

"New speakers always say they want to have a more open process," says Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat. "Then the sheer demands of making the trains run on time and getting things passed requires that you change your mind."

The WSJ doesn't say what most of these changes are; it lists two of them...

• Lawmakers will be required to vote on whether or not to raise the federal debt ceiling, a move sought by tea-party representatives. Current rules let the House automatically raise the limit when they pass a budget.

• All legislation must be posted online 72 hours before going to the House floor to prevent party leaders from changing bills the night before House votes, as has been the practice over the years.

Here are a few more. These don't seem to be the decentralizing sort of rules.

One of the new wrinkles Boehner and company will add to how the House operates will be to read the Constitution aloud....

Reading the Constitution, a 4,543-word document that includes its 27 amendments, is a half-hour exercise that will occur on Jan. 6, a day after Boehner is sworn in.


Going forward, committees will broadcast their hearings and mark-up sessions online, lawmaker attendance will be recorded for each committee hearing and the debt limit will no longer be automatically increased with each new budget resolution....

Among the more controversial of Boehner's new rule changes are ones critics say will usher in more deficit-increasing tax cuts in the next two years. These rules represent another road to the anti-deficit rhetoric Boehner and Republicans spoke about on in their campaigns last fall. Current House rules call for a pay-as-you-go requirement that any tax cut or spending increase for a mandatory (i.e., entitlement) program must be offset by cuts in other mandatory spending or increases in other taxes to avoid increasing the deficit. Current rules also bar the House from using budget “reconciliation” procedures, special rules that facilitate fast action on specific budget legislation, to pass deficit-increasing bills.

The new rule will be "cut-go" instead of "pay-go:"

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.”

Immune from that requirement, however, will be any law to repeal ObamaCare. See, supposedly, CBO projections or whatnot still show ObamaCare "cutting" costs by $140 billion over 10 years; I doubt anyone really believes that, except Obama's media spirit squad. So apparently the rule will exclude cut-go balancing requirements from consideration in repealing that.

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posted by Ace at 01:31 PM

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