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House Dems Block Intelligence Authorization, Veterans Choice Funding

by Countable | 7.24.17

The legislative work week got started in the House on Monday in much the same way as it usually does, with a slate of uncontroversial bills getting votes under suspension of the rules that are expected to pass because they have broad bipartisan support. Occasionally, such bills prove more contentious than expected and fail to get the votes they need, which was the case today as House Democrats blocked the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018.

Their gripe wasn’t about the substance of the bill, which passed the House Intelligence Committee on a unanimous voice vote, but rather the process under which it was considered. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asked Democratic members "to vote no on the bill when it comes up under suspension so that we can take it up under a rule," calling it “unacceptable” that Republicans added the bill to the suspension calendar. And the intelligence authorization wasn’t the only suspension bill to fail, as a six-month funding extension for the Veterans Choice program was also blocked.

What is "suspension of the rules"?

Bills that are considered under suspension of the rules can only be debated on the floor for 40 minutes, and no amendments are allowed. Because the debate is accelerated for bills under suspension of the rules they have a higher support threshold to clear for passage — two-thirds of members have to vote in favor rather than the usual simple majority.

When the House debates relatively controversial bills, it does so "pursuant to a rule." Rules are passed by the Rules Committee (go figure) to structure the floor debate around the bill, and can take three forms:

  • Closed rules allow no amendments.

  • Structured rules allow only specific amendments.

  • Open rules allow any amendment to be brought up as long as it complies with the House’s "germaneness rule," which basically means amendments have to be related to the underlying bill.

What’s next for the failed bills?

While it isn't immediately clear when the bills will be brought up again, but it’s a near certainty that they will be eventually as they each had bipartisan support and enough votes from Republicans alone to pass on a simple majority vote.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) expressed an eagerness to move the process forward as he chided Democrats to "stop playing politics with our national security, drop these partisan demands, and help us get this bill to the president’s desk as soon as possible."

Tell your reps whether to support or oppose the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018 after reading more below:

— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Nancy Pelosi via Flickr / Public Domain)

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