Ranking Member McGovern Calls for More Accommodating Process as Subcommittee Examines Possible Rules Changes for the 116th Congress

Sep 13, 2018

Ranking Member James P. McGovern

House Committee on Rules

Representing Massachusetts' 2nd District


Thursday, September 13, 2018


Jeff Gohringer (202) 225-2888



Ranking Member McGovern Calls for More Accommodating Process as Subcommittee Examines Possible Rules Changes for the 116th Congress   


WASHINGTON, DC — Rules Committee Ranking Member James P. McGovern (D-MA) this morning called for a more accommodating process that restores integrity to the House of Representatives as the Subcommittee on Rules and Organization held a members’ day hearing examining possible rules changes for the 116thCongress. This Republican Congress has already become the most closed Congress in history, with the House considering the 97th closed rule of this Congress later today. Ranking Member McGovern’s opening statement today, as prepared for delivery, is included below:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I’ll be direct: we don’t know if the House will change hands next session. But something has to change.

Members today seem to have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than getting their amendments made in order. They come here with real ideas and germane amendments only to be told no. Again and again and again.

This Republican Congress has broken records. It’s the most closed Congress in history! We have had 97 closed rules and counting already this Congress, shutting out members of both parties from even offering their ideas. 

And that matters. Especially when regular order is regularly ignored. Just last week, we considered a bill that was introduced on a Friday. A Friday, I will add, of a district work period when members weren’t here to review it. The bill was brought before the Rules Committee the following Wednesday. No hearings. No markup. No experts were brought in. And it was considered under another closed rule!

That’s not how the House is supposed to function. That’s the type of process that has caused so much dysfunction around here.

I’m leading an effort so that if the Democrats are trusted with the Majority, we’ll be ready with a rules package on day one. I’m not just talking to Democrats. I’m happy to get ideas from Republicans, too. Because restoring integrity to this House means listening to all members.

Today is another opportunity for all of us to hear from our colleagues. I’m ready to listen. I know you’re having discussions on a rules package, too. But I was troubled to read in The Hill last week that Republicans are considering changes that would punish members for not voting lockstep for the party line. That you’re discussing ways to punish members for signing discharge petitions or voting against the ideas of party leadership.

I think that would be a horrible mistake. We shouldn’t be stifling debate even more or turning the House into even more of rubber stamp for the president. That would be learning all the wrong lessons from where we are today. 

I doubt anyone we’ll hear from today will advocate for a more top-down style. But I do think we’ll find a lot of agreement on some pretty common-sense ideas: That we need a more accommodating process. We need to follow regular order. And the House needs to actually debate again.

I also want to highlight that as Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, I look forward to working with Republican Co-Chair Hultgren to update the Commission’s authorization in the Rules package to include full-time paid professional staff. We’ve been asked to do this by the House Administration Committee and the Appropriations Committee, specifically the Legislative Branch Subcommittee. Earlier this year the House approved stand-alone funding for the Commission for the first time for FY 2018, and we’ll be building on that decision.

Let me close by saying one last thing about our rules. Getting the rules package right is important, but there is something that is more important. And that is how we conduct ourselves week after week, month after month, year after year, up here in this committee. This Republican Majority has chosen to use its power to shut out all ideas a stunning 97 times this Congress alone – breaking their own previous record. That conduct – that shameful record – should be a part of the discussion today. 

I thank the witnesses for being here. I’m looking forward to hearing their ideas. And I yield back my time.