The House Rules Committee yesterday finally cleared for floor action week after next the reconciliation bill to cut next year's deficit by $10 billion by increasing revenue and cutting spending.
The resolution setting ground rules for handling the bill is the same one the committee had tentatively adopted a month ago and Democratic leaders had been trying unsuccessfully to change ever since.
If approved by the House, the rule would bar, with one exception, amendments making substantial dollar changes in the bill. The exception, which Rules Committee Republicans got adopted, allows a separate floor vote on retaining twice-a-year cost-of-living adjustments in retirement pay of federal employes and the military instead of switching to just one annual adjustment.That change, sponsored by Rep. Robert Bauman (R-Md.), would cost an estimated $756 million.
The Bauman amendment was approved with the votes of all five Republicans on the committee plus three Democrats.
Democratic leaders feared that if a separate House vote were permitted on this amendment, other special interests would line up to try to get votes on knocking their cuts out of the bill and the whole reconciliation process would unravel.
But the best efforts of Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. couldn't turn around enough Democratic votes to undo the Bauman amendment. Members seeking separate amendments on other provisions probably will try to open the rule up when it comes to a House vote.
Rules Committee Chairman Richard Bolling (D-Mo.) said the month wasn't entirely wasted. By finally agreeing to leave the Bauman amendment in the rule, Democratic leaders were able to win enough Democratic votes to ward off other amendments to the rule, including one to delete a $500 million cut in child nutrition funds, he said.