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Fulfilling one of their most prominent campaign promises, House Republican leaders have unveiled a new rule to require that each bill filed in the House “cite its specific constitutional authority.”
And for those who may have skipped that constitutional law class, Republicans have organized four staff briefings prior to the Jan. 5 start of the 112th Congress to provide guidance on compliance with the new rule. The first session will be Monday at 1 p.m. in the Capitol Visitor Center.
GOP leaders have prepared a memo for all members of the new Congress and senior staff informing them that no bill may be introduced unless the sponsor has submitted for the Congressional Record a statement “citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress” to enact the measure. The memo included five examples of forms that sponsors could include with their legislation.
And the memo warned that any bill that is filed without the requisite “constitutional authority statement” will not be accepted by the House clerk and will be returned to the sponsor. Such a statement, House Republicans added in a Friday statement, “also demonstrates to the American people that we in Congress understand that we have an obligation under our founding document to stay within the role established therein for the legislative branch.”
Although some members – especially Democrats who didn’t sign the campaign promise – might find the new rule burdensome, its practical effect on legislation in the new Congress likely will be limited.
Presumably, the new GOP leaders and committee heads will not be sending bills to the House floor unless they consider them constitutional. As is the case every two years, all members will take an oath of office on Jan. 5 to support the founding document.
“When there is pushback [to the constitutionality of a bill], we will allow debate on the House floor,” said Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, who headed a working group of the House GOP transition team that prepared the new procedure.
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