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How Congressional Voting Works

August 6, 2018

With President Trump’s latest efforts to lower America’s world standing and Congress’ refusal to do anything to curtail those efforts, it seems an appropriate time to look at Congressional steps — particularly the House’s — to enact legislation.

I needed reminding — maybe you do also — that the Speaker of the House is able to decide, almost unilaterally, which bills get to the floor. Once he does that, the House Rules Committee takes over and determines how the bill will be considered. If the members of that Committee pick an “open” rule, all House members will be able to offer amendments.

If, instead, the Committee goes with a “closed” rule, only pre-approved — by the Rules Committee, of course — amendments will be considered.

Members of the Rules Committee rarely allow members of either party to offer amendments, and rarely question the Speaker’s decisions on which bills get to the floor. In the current Congress, not a single bill has been considered under an open rule. For perspective, roughly 85 percent of the House bills considered during the first half of President Carter’s term were debated under open rules.

We should change how members are selected to sit on the Rules Committee and make it more representative of the entire House. Now the majority party gets nine seats compared to just four for the minority. All were chosen by Mitch McConnell. It’s also time for the split between majority and minority to be changed. Other House committees have enough minority members so that they have a real voice when the committee is considering new legislation.

What you can do: Familiarize yourself with the arcane procedures that allow Representative McConnell almost complete power over what legislation our elected officials get to debate by visiting nolabels.org and downloading the Break The Gridlock packet.

Broomfield’s Representative, Jared Polis, has signed on to support Break The Gridlock, as has Sixth Colorado District Representative Mike Coffman.

Broomfield resident Barbara Kelly is a current substitute science teacher for the Boulder Valley School District and a former business reporter.

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