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August 28, 2015

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SUN EDITORIAL:

Rules? What rules?

Republicans said they’d bring reform, but all they’ve offered are excuses

Republicans took over the House of Representatives on Wednesday and quickly implemented a new set of rules, which they trumpeted as “reforms.” They said the rules would increase transparency in government.

When Democrats were in charge, the GOP had a litany of complaints about the way Speaker Nancy Pelosi ran the House. They said legislation was pushed through, and lawmakers didn’t have a chance to debate it or even consider it. Bills on the floor weren’t often open to amendments, they said, and proposed legislation wasn’t posted on the Internet in enough time to give the public a chance to see it before a debate.

So the new Republican rules mandate that bills go through committees, be posted on the Internet three days before a vote and be open for debates and amendments. The Republicans also implemented some pet proposals, including a requirement that bills have a statement citing its constitutional authority. They also enacted a “cut as you go” rule, requiring that most spending bills pay for themselves with budget cuts.

But, flush with their new power, Republicans started breaking their own rules — the day they implemented them.

For example, the first piece of major legislation the Republicans want to consider is a provision to repeal the health care law. But Wednesday House leaders said that bill won’t be going through a committee, where it would be debated under the GOP plan. Instead, it will go directly to the House floor. And the so-called open rule, which allows any member to add an amendment, won’t be in effect.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that by 2019 the health care law will reduce the federal deficit by $143 billion, which means that Republicans should offer cuts to make up for that amount under their “cut as you go” rule. Instead, House leaders gave the health care repeal bill an exemption.

Republicans made plenty of excuses for their rule-breaking: They just want an up-or-down vote on health care, the committees aren’t ready to hold hearings, not every bill will be covered under the open rule, the CBO estimate is wrong, and on it went. Perhaps the sun got in their eyes or they had first-day jitters.

But the health care bill isn’t the only one breaking rules. Politico.com reported Thursday that the first three bills the House Rules Committee posted online were missing citations of constitutional authority. Republican aides said they would be added later.

Rules are meant to be broken, right?

Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat, said that during her four-year tenure as chairwoman of the Rules Committee, Republicans demanded rules like the ones they just violated.

“You fancy they would let me get away with that?” she told Politico. “It’s the first day, and they’ve violated everything they said they were going to do.”

Republicans seem to think that since they are in power, they can do what they want, which is exactly what they accused Democrats of doing.

They can try to hide behind excuses, but if they can’t follow their own rules on something as big as health care, how can anyone expect they would keep their word on other matters? Don’t forget that this is the party of “fiscal responsibility” whose reckless spending caused the federal deficit to explode during the previous administration.

If the Republicans continue on this path, it’s going to be a long two years.

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