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Some progressive Democrats announce opposition to new House rules

Trump, congressional leaders to meet on shutdown

Some progressive Democrats have announced that they will vote against House Democrats' rules package, which was rolled out Tuesday evening. Although the package includes bills which would create a committee on climate change and implement ethics reforms, some representatives are basing their opposition on the inclusion of the "pay as you go" rule.

The "pay as you go" rule, commonly known as PAYGO, requires that any increase in entitlement spending be offset by cuts in other entitlement programs, or by new revenue raisers, in order to prevent the deficit from increasing. The deficit jumped by 17 percent in 2018, after the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul passed in 2017. While managing a yawning deficit may be a priority for presumed incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi, it angers progressives who oppose cutting some entitlement spending in order to increase funding for other programs.

After the new House is seated, one of the first orders of business will be approving the new rules package governing the House for this term. Assuming none of the 197 Republicans vote to approve the rules package, the 234-member Democratic conference cannot afford to lose more than 16 votes in order for it to pass.

California Rep. Ro Khanna was the first Democrat to announce his opposition to the rules package based on the PAYGO provision Wednesday. 

"It is terrible economics. The austerians were wrong about the Great Recession and Great Depression. At some point, politicians need to learn from mistakes and read economic history," Khanna tweeted, referring to austerity measures, which are focused on reducing a deficit due to risks of budget default.

Incoming New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has quickly become a leading progressive voice in the freshman class, also said that she would not vote for the package on Twitter. In her tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said that the PAYGO rule is a "dark political maneuver designed to hamstring progress on healthcare" and other legislation.

So far, Khanna and Ocasio-Cortez are the only Democrats to announce opposition to the package. Other notable provisions include reviving the "Gephardt rule," which automatically raises the debt ceiling when the House passes a budget. Members would be required to have additional ethics training, and would be prohibited from serving on corporate boards. One provision would also amend the rule against wearing hats on the House floor to have religious exceptions, so that incoming Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Muslim, may wear her headscarf.

Another notable provision would change the process to "vacate the chair," a process to force out the speaker. Instead of only one member being able to trigger the process, the new rule would require motion to vacate to only be offered on the House floor if a majority of either party conference agrees to do so.