What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Protecting Rights of Congressional Minorities : H. Res. 5. Rules of the House of Representatives/Vote on Final Passage of Republican-Drafted Resolution Establishing Rules to Govern the 109th Congress. (2005 house Roll Call 6)
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H. Res. 5. Rules of the House of Representatives/Vote on Final Passage of Republican-Drafted Resolution Establishing Rules to Govern the 109th Congress.
house Roll Call 6     Jan 04, 2005
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

In this vote, the House agreed 220 to 195 to H. Res. 5, the Republican-drafted resolution establishing the rules that would govern the House of Representatives in the 109th Congress. (Each two-year period beginning in January following congressional elections the previous November is considered a "Congress.") These rules must be re-adopted every two years when a new Congress begins. H. Res. 5 contained a number of significant changes from the rules that governed the 108th Congress, including the creation of a Committee on Homeland Security, the introduction of the concept of a "provisional quorum" (provisional majority required in order for Congress to vote and otherwise conduct certain business) in the case of catastrophe, and changes in ethics-related provisions designed to make it easier for the committee with oversight responsibility for internal ethics questions to dismiss complaints against House members. Democrats objected to the section of the bill establishing procedures for governance by provisional quorum, arguing that this measure would unconstitutionally alter the manner in which Congress is to operate in the event of a catastrophe. They argued that this change to the rules would, in effect, be amending the Constitution because it would permit the Speaker "nearly unfettered authority to change the number of the Members of the whole House to exclude Members who are chosen, sworn, and living . . . . This would seem to amount to a constructive expulsion without a [constitutionally required] two-thirds vote of the whole House." ( Nadler, D-NY.) (The U.S. Constitution requires two-thirds of the House to vote to expel a member from its ranks.) In addition, Democrats objected to provisions in the Resolution which they believed would weaken House ethics standards. These objections included, first, a provision which would change the outcome of a complaint on which the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (the House committee with oversight over internal ethics issues) was deadlocked from sending it to an investigator to letting the matter drop. Second, Democrats objected to a provision that would eliminate the requirement that the Committee act on complaints within 45 days, thereby letting Republicans "bury" ethics complaints in the Committee. Finally, a number of Democrats expressed concerns about the jurisdiction (areas of responsibility) of the new Committee on Homeland Security, which was gathered from the jurisdiction of several already existing committees. Republicans countered that not only was the provisional quorum provision constitutional, but the entire package of rules was tightly constructed and observed a high standard of ethics, and that the jurisdiction of the new committee was appropriately drawn. The resolution passed on a strict party-line vote. Thus, the rules under which the House will operate for the two-year duration of the 109th Congress passed as proposed by Republicans and include rules which Democrats, including Progressives, will have to follow, despite the fact that many Democrats believe some of the rules to be unconstitutional or unfair.

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