What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Right to Government Information : H. Res. 6 Adopting the rules of the House of Representative for the 110th Congress/On adopting Title 4 of the resolution (2007 house Roll Call 9)
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H. Res. 6 Adopting the rules of the House of Representative for the 110th Congress/On adopting Title 4 of the resolution
house Roll Call 9     Jan 05, 2007
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This vote determined whether a section of the ground rules for the 110th Congress covering "fiscal responsibility" would be adopted. Every two years when a new Congress meets for the first time members have to agree on what's known as a "rules package," the ground rules that guide lawmakers' conduct both on and off the House floor. It governs everything from how debate is conducted to what lawmakers can accept from lobbyists to what privileges are afforded to the minority party. The rules package must be agreed to before any other business is conducted, and it sets the tone for the entire two-year Congress. The rules package proposed by the Democrats for the 110th Congress codified many campaign promises, including reforms to the ethics rules, curtailing the ability of lawmakers to secretly slip provisions into bills that only benefit narrow interests and making it more difficult for Congress to pass bills that increase the deficit. This vote was on adoption of Title 4 of the resolution, titled "fiscal responsibility." This part of the rules package comprises changes to the budget process, including reinstatement of pay-as-you-go requirements for new tax-cut or entitlement programs. PAYGO rules, as they are known, mandate that any new tax cuts or expansion of entitlement programs have to be offset by cuts to other parts of the budget or tax increases. They require that budget-busting legislation be subject to what's known as a point of order, a parliamentary hurdle that the legislation would have to overcome in order to move forward. During debate, Democrats accused President Bush and his fellow Republicans in Congress of frittering away the large budget surpluses they inherited after the 2000 elections and turning them into record deficits. The national debt is now approaching $9 trillion. "The one thing we can say about George Bush and his economic policy is: 'We are forever in your debt,' " said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.). "On day number two [of Democratic control], Democrats have said, 'Enough is enough with running up the debt of this country. We're going to put our fiscal house in order.' " Republicans criticized the Democrats' PAYGO efforts for being weak, as the measure is only enforceable through House rules, which are easily waived by the majority party. Indeed, the measure doesn't have the same teeth as 1990s-era PAYGO language that was enacted into law. Democrats pointed out, however, that it was a Republican Congress that let that law expire. The House Democratic leadership has indicated they will pursue PAYGO legislation in the beginning of this session, but pointed out that it would not be possible without the support of the White House and the Senate. PAYGO rules in the House were the best they could do for now, they said. This title of the rules package also prohibits what are known as earmarks unless the provisions' sponsors are listed in the report accompanying the bill. Earmarks are provisions tucked legislation that often benefit small, private interests or a lawmaker's own district. It has been the practice in recent Congresses for such provisions to be slipped in anonymously without public scrutiny. Under Title 4, the same reporting requirements apply to earmarks in bills that go to the floor bypassing the normal committee process as well as earmarks added in conference committees with the Senate. Furthermore, Title 4 also prohibits any lawmaker from conditioning inclusion of an earmark based on how another lawmaker voted. Such a practice had become relatively commonplace under Republican control of the chamber. Forty-eight Republicans joined all 232 present Democrats in voting to enact Title 4 of the House rules package for the 110th Congress. Thus, pay-as-you-go budget rules and banning anonymous earmarks became part of the standing rules of the House for the next two years.

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