Budget Changes in Proposed House Rules

Jan 2, 2019 | Budget Process

House Democrats are proposing a package of rules to govern the House of Representatives in the 116th Congress. The package contains many changes from the rules governing the last Congress, affecting legislative procedure, ethics and diversity, and creating two select committees on climate change and modernizing Congress.

Below are some of the most relevant budget changes in the proposed House package:

  • Makes it easier to suspend the debt ceiling. The package reinstates a version of the Gephardt Rule. When a budget resolution passes the House, a debt limit suspension through September 30 would also be deemed passed as a separate piece of legislation for the Senate to take up. A previous version of the rule spun off a dollar amount increase in the debt limit, rather than a length of time, and did so after a concurrent budget resolution passed both chambers, rather than just the House. For more on the Gephardt Rule, see our BBPI paper “Improving the Debt Limit.”
  • Pay-As-You-Go. The rules package would restore the PAYGO rule that was last in place in 2010. It replaces the previous Congress's CUTGO rule – spending increases must be offset – with a PAYGO rule stipulating that both mandatory spending increases and tax cuts must be offset. We strongly support PAYGO rules that encourage fiscal responsibility.
  • Eliminates dynamic scoring requirement in the House. The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation would no longer be required to produce a macroeconomic "dynamic" estimate of major legislation incorporating the effects of economic growth.
  • Remove supermajority requirement to raise income taxes. The rule would remove a requirement for a 3/5 supermajority vote to raise revenue through federal income tax rate changes.
  • Remove term limits for serving on the House Budget Committee. Previously, Members could not serve for more than four Congresses out of a period of six successive Congresses – that is, for more than 8 years out of a 12-year period.
  • Removes point of order against appropriations amendments that increase spending without offsets. Amendments could be offered to appropriations bills increasing spending. Other points of order would still be able to be raised if it did not comply with the 302(a) overall limit on discretionary spending or the 302(b) allocation assigned to each appropriations subcommittee.
  • Strengthen rules about advance notice. Major bills would need to be made public 72 hours before being considered by the House, as opposed to "on the third day" under the previous rules. The "third day" rule could be less than 72 hours, for instance, if a bill was released late on the first day and voted on early in the third. The rules also create a point of order against bills that haven't had a hearing or a committee markup.
  • Consensus calendar to circumvent committees. If a bill has 290 consponsors and the relevant committee has not acted on the topic, a bill can be placed on the "consensus calendar." The House is supposed to consider at least one bill a week from that calendar.
  • Less need for Rules Committee for the first two weeks: The Speaker is granted the authority to consider bills under suspension of the rules through January 17, bypassing the Rules Committee but requiring a two-thirds vote.
  • Quicker end to a shutdown: For measures related to FY 2019 appropriations, the House can approve a report from the Rules Committee on the same day it is reported from the committee through January 8.