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- Republicans will have a new race for Speaker of the House with Paul Ryan’s retirement.
- A major sticking point for many House Republicans is whether or not they will be allowed to offer amendments, which has been a very strict process under Ryan.
WASHINGTON – There is a lot of pent-up anger in the House Republican Conference from members who feel frozen out of the legislative process, with which the successor to House Speaker Paul Ryan will have to contend or face the same rebellions and party infighting.
Ryan holds a record in the House for crushing debate. Last year’s session of Congress saw more closed rules than any in history, and so far 2018 has been no different. Republicans, whether they are moderates, ultra-conservatives, or whatever, are not allowed to offer anything they want to get a vote.
In a May report from the House Rules Committee’s Democrats, lawmakers wrote that “Democratic and Republican Members alike have been shut out of the legislative process and open and deliberative debate has been stifled.”
“Under a closed rule, Members cannot even offer an amendment to fix a typo, let alone an amendment to make a difference in someone’s life and under Republican control, no Member is allowed to offer an amendment on the House floor to most major bills considered,” the report added. “This Congress, more than half of the rules reported for debate, fifty-six percent, have been completely closed and there have been zero open or modified-open rules.”
Members have been infuriated with process
The strictness of the House Rules Committee, which is under Ryan’s control, has infuriated members. GOP Rep. Justin Amash called him “the worst House speaker in the history of Congress” in terms of process.
Other members and their staff have expressed similar anger. Several GOP aides have told Business Insider that whether or not the next speaker is as strict as Ryan will be a major factor in weighing support for the candidate.
Adam Brandon, the current president of the conservative grassroots organization FreedomWorks, told Business Insider that the frustration among many House Republicans with process is “tremendous.”
“So you’ve got this frustration of members that they can’t offer amendments, which is a problem for them personally, then you’ve got the committee chairmen that are disempowered, but then the way that you run this, the whole body is disempowered really,” he said.
This all factors into the upcoming speaker – or minority leader – race for Republicans when Ryan retires at the end of the year.
A candidate for speaker, whether it be current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan, or whoever, could curry significant favor with the conference by pledging to give them the chances to actually have a say.
One of Jordan’s selling points, Brandon said, is that he would be one of the “least powerful, but most effective speakers” in history, but that means each member would have a voice, where they can make their case about any issue in the form of an amendment.
“If Jordan does have a shot at being speaker, it’s simply because people trust him with these process changes,” Brandon said. “Because they just know who he is. They know he’s going to be like, ‘Well I don’t agree with your bill, but we’re going to allow some open rules here to let you actually move your amendments forward.'”
While Jordan’s bid for speaker, which he announced last week, is largely seen as a ploy for some other position to be given in a compromise, Republicans will have to contend with what kind of leader they want – and whether that includes a more open and transparent process.