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House Passes Republican Rules Package

John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, walks to the floor of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The House late Wednesday afternoon passed the rules package for the 112th Congress put forth by Republicans in conjunction with their takeover of the chamber. The vote was 240 to 191.

"The passage of these reforms marks a first step towards restoring the House as an institution focused on listening to the people," House Speaker John Boehner said following the vote.

During a heated debate on the package before the vote, Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland argued it would "blow a hole in the deficit and expand the debt." He also said the package "opens the door to politically-motivated, Enron-style accounting."

Much of the rules package deals with budgetary and procedural matters. It exempts repeal of health care legislation from budget rules, as well as extension of the Bush-era tax cuts. It also eliminates "pay-as-you-go" rules in favor of a "cut-go" policy, which requires all new mandatory spending and all suspension bills be offset with cuts somewhere else. It does not require, however, that tax cuts be paid for.

The rules also require that every piece of legislation be paired with a summary explaining why the action is constitutional; require that bills be posted online for three days before a vote; say a separate vote must be held to raise the debt limit; renames a trio of committees; and allows the chair to reduce vote time on the floor from 5 to 2 minutes if he or she finds it appropriate.

Among the other changes is a provision requiring that the Constitution be read on the House floor tomorrow. That reading will begin at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time and take one to two hours.

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