Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) and 23 of her House Republican colleagues are waving a yellow flag at Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), asking him to agree to an “open and transparent” process regarding the Democrats’ unprecedented $3.5 trillion spending plan.
“We request that you commit to regular order and a robust, open, and transparent process on any matters the Committee on Energy and Commerce considers to meet its reconciliation instructions,” McMorris-Rodgers and the other co-signers told Pallone in an Aug. 30 letter.
McMorris-Rodgers is the ranking minority member of the panel.
Calling the Democrats spending plan “an unprecedented expansion of federal control over American health care, energy production and use, and the economy writ large,” the letter reads, “it should not be rushed through on a party-line vote without giving the American people a chance to learn about what it means for their jobs and ability to provide for their families.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used a rarely-employed legislative maneuver last week to push through instructions to all House committees regarding their role in writing the huge expenditure plan.
Congress must enact either a new budget or a concurrent spending resolution that continues current expenditure levels for a set period of time no later than Sept. 30 to avoid a potential government shutdown.
The Pelosi maneuver allows the committees to bypass the regular order of public hearings, testimony from advocates and opponents, and open markups.
Also, under the reconciliation process, the Senate needs only a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes for passage. With the Senate split 50–50 between the two parties and their independent allies, Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the deciding vote.
In the absence of regular order, Democratic majorities on the committees will effectively be able to write their bills behind closed doors, then bring them forward for what will almost certainly be pro forma party-line votes to proceed.
A spokesman for Pallone didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
“Many of the proposals in the Budget Resolution have never had any type of informational or legislative hearing, input from stakeholders, technical assistance from the relevant federal agencies, or committee process whatsoever,” the letter reads.
“As far as we know, legislative text has not even been finalized. Before you bring this massive bill to markup, the committee needs to do its due diligence through regular order, including educational hearings, testimony and technical assistance from the administration, and legislative hearings.
“It is also critical that the committee receive a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to provide a full accounting of the budgetary and economic consequences these proposals may have on the American people.”
The letter writers also reminded Pallone of his comments when positions were reversed in 2017, with Republicans in control of Congress and moving to bypass regular order.
“The inconveniences that would result from delaying this markup, and actually going through the regular committee process, pale in comparison to the damage that hasty action invites,” said Pallone, then the ranking Democrat on the energy and commerce panel, as quoted in the letter. “And so, Mr. Chairman, again, I don’t understand the rush. My fear is that the Republicans don’t want an open and transparent process because they don’t want feedback from their constituents and the American people before marking it up.”
The letter writers also noted earlier comments by another Democratic member of the panel, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), regarding the importance of having a CBO score before marking up the final version of the bill. Her comments are also quoted in the letter:
“I think that there is a huge deficiency here today around a very important topic, and that is that we don’t have a CBO score. … How much is the bill going to cost? Who is going to pay for it? Is it going to act as a deficit? Is it going to bring the deficit down? These are major, major issues. And why it is left out, I mean, it is up to the majority to explain that. You either don’t care about it or you are worried what it is going to bring out. I don’t know, but—or I have a sense of it. But I want to reiterate for the record how essential it is to have the CBO score.”
A spokesman for Eshoo didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
Among the 24 signers of the letter is House Minority Whip, Rep. Stephen Scalise (R-La.).