Nancy Pelosi's Heavy-Handed Reign

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her Democrat allies are poised to rewrite House rules today, ending term limits for committee chairmen and curtailing a procedural motion for Republicans to offer alternative legislation. Changing the rules will make it easier for Democrats to raise taxes without opposition.

Republicans successfully used the “motion to recommit” several times in the 110th Congress, often frustrating Pelosi. The GOP’s crafty efforts on the House floor halted tax increases by forcing the legislation back to House committees. (See the table below for some examples.)

Pelosi’s maneuvers are the latest sign that she has abandoned her promise to “create the most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress in history.” By limiting the minority’s ability to offer alternative legislation on the House floor, Pelosi is shutting down one of the few legislative weapons Republicans have at their disposal. Ending term limits means many chairman will weild the gavel until they retire or die.

Republicans reacted angrily to the reversal of the rules they established in 1995 under then-Speaker Newt Gingrich. Democrats were allowed to use the motion to recommit during the 12 years they spent in the minority. “The majority’s record in the last Congress was the worst in history when it came to having a free and open debate on the issues,” GOP leaders wrote in a letter to Pelosi.

Democrats brought several bills to the floor over the past two years with tax increases, including the four below. It was the GOP’s use of the motion to recommit that drew attention to them, forcing Democrats to go on the record in support of raising taxes. Under the new rule, Democrats won’t even have to vote on their tax increases.

There’s little Republicans can do to block the change. They could stage a walkout or offer motions to adjourn, but it’s unlikely Democrats will vote in opposition to Pelosi.

Legislation Tax Increase GOP Attempts to Strike Tax Increases Allowed Under New Rules?
Energy & Tax Extenders Act (H.R. 6049) $54 billion in tax increases on American businesses GOP motion to recommit included language to strike the tax increases No
Renewable Energy & Energy Conservation Tax Act (H.R. 5351) $18 billion in tax increases on domestic energy production GOP motion to recommit included language to strike the tax increases No
Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act $2 billion capital gains tax increase GOP motion to recommit struck the tax increase No
Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) $7.5 billion in tax increases on domestic employers GOP motion to recommit struck the tax increase No