AIN Update
Nov. 25, 2019

On Tuesday, Nov. 19, House leadership brought the most recent continuing resolution (CR), H.R. 3055, to the floor for a vote less than 24 hours after the legislative text was published online for members to review. This quick turn-around on committee-to-floor action violated the standing rules of the House, which mandate that all legislative text must be accessible to members in its final form for a full 72 hours prior to being taken up for consideration by the House.

The self-adopted and -enforced rule ensures that representatives have adequate time to analyze and understand the bill, as well as identify any need for amendment. Previous sessions of Congress have adopted similar requirements, sometimes referred to as the “three-day rule,” implemented in the same spirit to give members adequate time to uphold their responsibilities of knowing the full extent of the policies on which they vote.

House leadership’s violation of the 72-hour rule last week broke an important institutional norm created to ensure the House’s prudent and responsible legislative deliberation. As a result, representatives were forced to vote on an unfamiliar version of the CR, facing the threat of a government shutdown. The CR passed and, unfortunately, in it lay a number of non-germane, unrelated provisions including a controversial USA Patriot Act extension, which many members’ past records show they may have opposed if they were given time to evaluate the legislation.

By breaking the 72-hour rule, House leadership demonstrated its top-down ability to break its own rules and ram through legislation despite its duty to represent constituencies in an informed and responsible manner. Although leadership caused this violation of procedure, rank-and-file representatives did not push back. Just a handful of members would have been enough to retain regular order and demand that rules be followed by all members of the House on all legislation taken up for consideration. Since that rebuttal did not take place, it can only be assumed that members of the House didn’t want to stand up to the Speaker and would rather deal with the consequences from their constituencies. If these violations continue to be tolerated, it should come as no surprise when other House rules are stretched or ignored entirely in the future.

Hat-tip to First Branch Forecast for highlighting this break in congressional norms.