Problem Solvers Secure Reforms to House Rules: What Are They and What Do They Mean?

November 30, 2018 by TWN Staff

This week members of the Problem Solvers Caucus reached an agreement with Leader Pelosi and Rules Committee Ranking Member McGovern that they assert will help break the partisan gridlock in the U.S. House of Representatives. Announcement of the agreement comes after months of negotiations with members of leadership in both parties. Many of the Democratic members involved in the discussions vowed to withhold their votes for Leader Pelosi in her bid for Speakership if the rules changes were not adopted.

“I appreciate Leader Pelosi’s willingness to work with the Problem Solvers Caucus to support concrete reforms that will facilitate bipartisan cooperation in what will be a divided Congress,” said Representative Stephanie Murphy, a prominent member of the Problem Solvers Caucus and newly elected leader of the Blue Dog Coalition.

Members of the Problem Solvers Caucus argue the new rules are commonsense reforms that will help Congress deliver real results for the American people on their most important priorities that have been procedurally blocked in Congress for too long.

“The American people are tired of hyper-partisan gridlock and want to see Members of Congress working together to solve the major challenges we face today as a nation.  Holding true to the promise I made to my constituents, I’m proud we secured these commonsense rules reforms that will increase transparency and consensus building in the U.S. Congress,” added Murphy.

The rules and reforms agreement includes the following:

  1. Every Member Gets a Voice: Adopt a rule creating a “Consensus Calendar.” Once a bill reaches 290 co-sponsors, a 25 legislative day clock will begin.  If the primary committee of jurisdiction does not report the bill by the end of the 25 legislative days, the legislation will be placed on the new “Consensus Calendar” where it will remain until the bill is considered.  For every in-session week, after February 28th of the First Session and before September 30th of the Second Session, majority leadership will be required to bring at least one bill on the “Consensus Calendar” to the Floor.
  2. Bipartisan Amendments: Create a Rules Committee Protocol that specifically adds a preference to amendments that comply with the rules, and have at least twenty Members of each party cosponsoring the amendment.
  3. Modernize the Discharge Petition: Allow discharge petitions to be considered under a 3-day notice process similar to privileged resolutions in order to facilitate their use and effectiveness, while still requiring 218 signatures. The current process only allows perfected petitions on certain Mondays and only if the House is in session on those days.
  4. Increase Committee Transparency: Require three business days’ notice for committee markups, but preserve the entire “good cause” exception.
  5. Legislative Committee Party Ratios: Commit to a more fair party ratio for committees. Since ratios change throughout the year due to resignations, special elections etc., ratios have never been and should not be set through the standing rules of the House. We are also aware of the Minority’s need to negotiate for seats they need and how setting ratios in the standing rules could inadvertently restrict their needs. However, we agree that to the extent possible party ratios on legislative committees (including Intelligence and Joint and Select Committees, but excluding Rules and Ethics) should reflect the party ratio of the entire House.
  6. A More Inclusive Amendment Process: Commit to a more fair and inclusive legislative process where more ideas and amendments are debated, and there is less of a reliance on closed rules.
  7. Preserve “Majority Markups”:Ensure that a majority of the Members of a committee can request and schedule a markup of the committee they serve on.

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