Thursday, September 26, 2013

House Rules Committee Approves Rule to Reconsider HR 2642

Late this afternoon the House Rules Committee announced an emergency meeting this evening to consider H Res 361, which modifies the House Rules for consideration of a continuing resolution or debt limit bill before October 1st. It also addresses the House action to be taken on HR 2642, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 as adopted by the Senate. The resolution was adopted in a party-line vote.

Modifying House Rules

Section 1 is a pretty standard change to House Rules when a statutory deadline approaches. In this case the deadline is September 30th and the rule {Rule XIII, clause 6(a)} is the requirement that it takes a 2/3 vote to a consider a rule, joint rule, or the order of business on the same day it is presented to the House. This rule would be waived only for a rule concerning a continuing resolution or a debt ceiling bill. This would allow for a continuing resolution to be considered right up to the deadline of midnight on the 30th.

I think that a debt ceiling bill was included so that an aggressive debt ceiling bill could be offered to the conservative members of the Republican Caucus as an incentive to vote for a continuing resolution that does not defund Obamacare.

HR 2642

Another sop to the conservatives is one of the least productive legislative moves that I have ever heard of. Back in July the Senate approved an alternative version of HR 2642 that removed virtually every conservative program included in the bill. This is a fairly standard occurrence and usually the House either accepts the new version (not too often lately) or demurs and requests a Conference Committee to iron out the differences between the two bills.

In this case, however, the resolution, if passed would accept the Senate version of the bill, but make two “minor” amendments and send it back to the Senate for concurrence in the amendments. The first amendment would remove the Senate language and re-insert the earlier House version (including chemical security and chemical safety provisions). The second little amendment would be the addition of HR 3102 (a bill recently passed in the House that drastically cuts funding for food stamps) as a new title in HR 2642.

There might have been a slim (very slim) chance that the Senate might have gone along with the re-insertion of the original House language, but there is no way that the Senate is going to concur with the insertion of HR 3102; the food stamps program is a favorite of Democratic lawmakers. As I see it there are only three possible responses:

• No action by the Senate and no agriculture department authorization bill for FY 2014 (most likely in my opinion);
• Declining the House Amendment and requesting a Conference Committee be appointed; and
• Concurring in the House vote but re-substituting the Senate language for the entire bill (a bit of tit for tat).

This will almost certainly pass on a straight party line vote when it comes up tomorrow.

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