New House Rules Mean An Improved And More Open Congress

In January 2023, House Republicans adopted a rules package that included a number of reforms that will make the House more responsive to the people, and they released some of their goals for the 118th Congress. Below is a summary of those goals and new rules, what they mean for you, and how this Congress will work. 

House Republicans want to adopt a Fiscal Year 2024 (FY2024) Budget Resolution that balances the budget within 10 years. The proposal would cut roughly $10 trillion in projected spending over the next decade while producing a slight surplus in the final year—all while making room for $3.3 trillion in tax cuts. This plan stems from a proposal from former President Donald Trump’s budget director Russ Vought. 

Republicans want to reform the budget process and mandatory spending programs, and they want to cap discretionary spending at levels that were enacted in 2022 or earlier. Rep.Chip Roy (R-TX-21) has pushed to cap government spending for FY2024 at FY2022 levels or earlier, which would ensure that government spending does not continue to get out of hand.

Balancing the budget is crucial for long-term national security. If the average American has to balance a budget, the federal government should have a balanced budget as well. 

House Republicans want to pass all 12 appropriations bills before September 30, 2023, and ensure that all 12 bills comply with the budget resolution Republicans will pass. The last time Congress passed all 12 appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year was in 1997.  Congress has managed to pass all 12 appropriations bills only four times in almost 50 years. 

Not relying on continuing resolutions and stopgap measures to fund the federal government will provide agencies with adequate funding to effectively carry out their mandates while ensuring that wasteful government spending is addressed annually. Congress controls the purse strings of the federal government. Members should be working hard to make sure the federal budget is not bloated with unnecessary programs and spending. 

The end of the government’s fiscal year is on September 30, 2023. If Congress cannot enact the 12 individual appropriations bills by then, House Republicans have promised to pass a continuing resolution (CR) that would continue to fund the government. This may be necessary to keep the government open if the House and Senate cannot agree on the appropriations bills. Passing a CR means government spending does not increase as it would lock in the previous year’s spending levels. 

House Republicans agreed not to increase the U.S. government’s debt limit without reforming how the government spends American taxpayer money. Some conservatives in the House have listed some of the reforms they would like to see in order to pass a debt limit increase. Those reforms include dollar-for-dollar spending cuts, a 10-year balanced budget, mandatory spending cuts, and government funding at FY2022 levels (Rep. Chip Roy has pushed for this policy already). The Treasury has announced that the federal government will hit its debt limit on January 19 but can take extraordinary measures to keep the government operating until early June. 

The rules package removed the Gephardt Rule, named after former Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO), which tied increasing the debt limit to Congress passing a budget resolution. When Congress passed a budget resolution, the debt limit would have been considered passed by the House without requiring members to take a separate vote on increasing the debt limit. Eliminating the Gephardt Rule will enable the American people to know where their representatives stand on such an important issue.

The rules for the 118th Congress also reinstituted Cut-As-You-Go (CutGo) in place of Pay-As-You-Go (PayGo). CutGo requires that increases in mandatory spending be offset only with equal or greater decreases in mandatory spending. Getting our spending under control is crucial and cutting unnecessary spending is a commonsense step. It is unsustainable to continue to borrow and spend: Congress must determine where spending can be cut. The average American does this every day, and we should expect Congress to do the same. 

The rules package has a provision that requires all bills to have a single subject. This is a crucial provision to limit the ability of Congress to create massive bills that provide an opportunity to slip in controversial provisions that do not relate to the main topic of the bill.

Republicans have also been promised votes on ending the COVID national emergency, the FAIR Tax, the Texas Border Plan, and a constitutional amendment to implement term limits for members of Congress. 

  • The FAIR Tax would create a nationwide sales tax to take the place of the current tax code and eliminate the IRS. The new 30 percent national sales tax would be administered by the states. This bill is a messaging bill: there is no way that Democrats in the Senate would agree to this proposal, nor would President Biden sign the bill into law. The proposal is also regressive. It would force lower-income Americans to pay a higher portion of their income in taxes, as they have to spend a higher percentage of their income just to meet basic needs. 
  • Ending the COVID national emergency is a commonsense plan that acknowledges that COVID will continue to be with us and the U.S. needs to learn how to live with the virus without restricting the rights of Americans. FreedomWorks has long argued that COVID is outside of the control of the government. Standing up for freedom is crucial to secure a prosperous future for this country and its people.
  • Republican members from Texas released a plan to combat the historically high border crossings that are impacting our southern border. The plan calls for completing the construction of a physical barrier at the southern border, requiring the Department of Homeland Security to detain or turn away migrants who arrive at the border, and defunding groups that are “actively encouraging the violation of our border security” by aiding migrants in the region. The plan would also increase the enforcement of immigration laws. 
  • Republicans will vote on a proposal that would amend the U.S. Constitution to limit the number of terms someone could serve in Congress. The proposal would limit someone to a total of three terms, or six years, in the House and two terms, or 12 years, in the Senate. Currently, 11 members serving in the House and Senate have been in office for more than 35 years. Term limits would be a vital way to get new ideas into Congress and rejuvenate the legislative process. 

The rules package also puts an end to proxy voting, requiring each member to cast a vote in person in order for that vote to be counted. The rules package also ended remote committee work. Members of Congress should be expected to show up for work, as countless Americans do every day. 

Finally, the rules package reinstated the Holman Rule, which will allow members to reduce the pay of a federal employee or fire that employee. This rule was originally created in the 1870s by Rep. William Holman of Indiana. This rule is an important tool to help Congress ensure that the executive branch performs its duties in accordance with the law.

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