FreedomWorks Opposes Proposed House Rule Change

FreedomWorks today voiced strong opposition to a change to the rules of the House of Representatives proposed by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). The proposed rule change would dissolve the privileged status of the “motion to vacate the chair,” by which an individual member could make the motion from the floor and force a vote to vacate the office of the Speaker of the House, and require a majority of a party’s conference to introduce the motion.

“The motion to vacate the chair is the most powerful tool members of the House have to ensure that the speaker is kept in check. It’s the sword of Damocles that hangs over the head of whomever happens to hold the office,” said FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon. “This tool, which is part of the House rules written by Thomas Jefferson, should not be altered under any circumstances.”

“Sadly, Rep. Nunes has been working to limit the democratic prerogatives of the members of the House of Representatives. He has introduced a proposal that would limit the ability of House members to choose a new Speaker of the House,” Brandon said. “Rep. Nunes proposed a roadblock: before the motion can be brought up in the House, that member’s party conference in the House would have to sign off on moving ahead. And since these entities are controlled by either the speaker or the minority leader, approval just won’t happen. That is exactly what Rep. Nunes wants.”

In July 2015, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) filed a motion to vacate the chair when John Boehner (R-Ohio) held the Speaker’s gavel, citing Boehner’s consolidation of power, proclivity for governing by crisis, and punishment of members “who vote according to their conscience.” Boehner announced his retirement from the House in September 2015 and resigned from office.

While a vote was not held on Rep. Meadows’ motion, it’s likely that enough House Republicans would have voted for another candidate for Speaker to force a second ballot, which would have effectively served as a vote of no confidence in Boehner, or Boehner would have had to rely on House Democrats to salvage his speakership.

“It was the House Freedom Caucus who wanted Speaker Boehner removed, and it was Rep. Meadows who pressed the issue. Rep. Nunes once called these constitutional conservatives ‘lemmings with suicide vests.’ Instead of respecting his colleagues, their parliamentary prerogatives, and their constituents, he seeks to do the work of the status quo and thwart them,” Brandon added.

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