Republican leaders are worried that similar floor fights could derail their effort to pass as many spending bills as possible ahead of the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
The proposal would require members to submit amendments ahead of floor consideration of appropriations bills and the House Rules Committee would then determine which would receive a vote. The process would violate Ryan’s pledge to maintain a more open spending process where amendments could be offered freely, but many conservatives said it would be a small price to pay in order to prevent Democrats from forcing political votes.
On Wednesday night the Rules Committee said it would not allow a vote on the Maloney LGBT amendment to a spending bill that would fund the operations of Congress. That bill is one of a small number of annual spending bills that has typically been subject to a limited number of amendments under existing House rules.
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said the issue is not about whether amendments pertinent to spending bills are being banned, but about whether Democrats are trying to disrupt the GOP-controlled House’s ability to do the basic work of funding the government.
“It is about the attempt to disrupt a very important constitutional process of the appropriations process,” he said.
Ryan’s plan to limit amendments is, in part, an effort to head off a long and controversial battle over whether religious groups that work with the government should be exempted from requirements meant to prevent discrimination against the LGBT community. It would also allow leadership to screen other proposals that could make for uncomfortable votes.
The issue of LGBT rights has become the subject of an even more intense political debate as several states have taken steps to restrict bathroom access for transgender individuals. The fight spilled over into the House last month when both parties tried to use the open amendment process for spending bills to force votes on the issue.
Republicans are angry that Democrats forced a vote on the Maloney amendment and then chose to vote against the underlying energy and water spending bill, causing the legislation to fail. Democrats say they voted against the bill over objections to other GOP proposals that were included in the measure. But Republicans question that argument and are determined not to get embarrassed again.
“The Democrats put in a poison pill and then they voted against their own bill,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-Tex.).
Democrats say the chaos surrounding the Maloney amendment was the result of GOP infighting.
“I think it would be hypocritical for them now to change the process,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in an interview. “They are a deeply divided party that continues to have difficulty agreeing with themselves.”
Conservatives have been skeptical of any effort to limit the amendment process, but many said Wednesday they would support the restricted process as long as leaders use the power to rein in Democrats, not members of their own party.
“I believe that it should never be used to thwart a majority member’s opportunity to offer amendments that they believe are appropriate,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).
Franks and other conservatives said they expect leaders will use the new rules to make sure GOP members control the type of issues that come up for a vote on the House floor.
“We’re a conservative conference, hopefully we’re going to push a conservative agenda,” said Rep. David Brat (R-Va.). “I think or side has been more than fair.”