Republican leadership under House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has set a record for the most closed rules in a session by not allowing members to add amendments to a bill for the 49th time. That record makes this the most closed Congress in U.S. history for members to debate and amend bills.
In 2015, Ryan promised an open process during his first press conference as Speaker:
“Bills will come up that may not pass. We’re not going to bottle up the process so much and predetermine the outcome of everything around here. I want the House to work its will. I think that’s the way the founders envisioned it to work. And so, some things will pass, and some things won’t.”
The entire reason for ousting the previous leader was for stifling debate with heavy-handed regulation of House proceedings, and the House members that did so were hoping for looser management and more of a say in what passed and what didn’t.
There’s plenty of criticism across the aisle, too.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said in a statement:
“The Republican Majority has now made history for all the wrong reasons. Under Speaker Ryan’s leadership, this session of Congress has now become the most closed Congress in history.”
But independent Republicans like Justin Amash (R-Mich.) are frustrated with the bait and switch as well:
“When we offer amendments, they have to be approved by leadership before we get a vote on them and that’s not how our system is supposed to work. Our system was designed to reflect the will of the people… And the speaker’s job is to ensure the system is open and [lawmakers] are given a fair opportunity to present their amendments.”
Amash later added:
“Right now that’s really broken and it seems to me that people in power here prefer a system where you have as few votes as possible and you attach everything to one or two votes and then everyone has the excuse that they had to vote for it because it has everything in it.”
It’s not the first time the libertarian Republican from Michigan has criticized and attempted to hold Republican Party leadership accountable. He teamed up with Democrats earlier this year to push for a bill that required President Donald Trump to release his tax returns.
That was around the same time Amash criticized Ryan for a leadership style that Amash says is too partisan, and even called for him to step down if he’s unwilling to listen and work with members:
“We can fix [gridlock], but we need either a change in direction from this speaker, or we need a new speaker. It’s very difficult to address because the people in charge, namely the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader or the president of the United States, don’t seem too interested in addressing it. They’re not that interested in breaking the partisan gridlock.”
It may be the case that partisan congressional leadership has as short of a memory and is as short-sighted as many partisan voters, as there can be little doubt that once Democrats assume leadership in the House again, they will return the favor of Ryan’s stifling and partisan leadership style.
Photo Source: AP