United States: House Rules Change

The House of Representatives has adopted a series of rules changes for the 116th Congress to implement a reform package that House Democrats developed after recapturing the House majority in the November 2018 midterm elections.1 In a news release announcing the new rules, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (D-MA) described them as "historic changes that will modernize Congress, restore regular order and bring integrity back to this institution."2 They emphasized that the rules changes would restore the people's voice, the legislative process, oversight and ethics, budget rules, and inclusion and diversity.

The rules changes include three titles, which the House has adopted in separate votes to (1) change the standing rules of the House (by a 234-197 vote), (2) establish a Select Committee on Modernization of Congress (by a 418-12 vote), and (3) authorize the Speaker to intervene on behalf of the House in litigation involving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (by a 235-192 vote). Summarized below are highlights from each title.3

Title I – Changes to the Standing Rules

Title I includes a variety of amendments to the standing rules of the House in the following categories:

  • Rights of Delegates and Resident Commissioner: Restores Delegates' and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico's right to vote when the House resolves into the Committee of the Whole to consider legislation (subject to immediate reconsideration in the House if their vote is collectively decisive), and the right to serve on joint committees.
  • Office of Speaker: Provides that a resolution causing a vacancy in the Office of Speaker is privileged if offered at the direction of a party caucus or conference, where a majority must vote to authorize such action. This rules amendment changes the prior practice allowing any Member to offer such a resolution. A privileged matter may be called up at any time for immediate consideration, interrupting the regular order of business of the House.
  • Committees: The new rules include the following changes affecting committees:

    • Name changes – Changes the name of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to the Committee on Oversight and Reform; and the name of the Committee on Education and the Workforce to the Committee on Education and Labor.
    • Oversight plans – Requires each standing committee to submit an oversight plan to the Committee on House Administration and the Committee on Oversight and Reform by March 1 of the first session of a Congress; and requires the Committee on Oversight and Reform to submit oversight plans to the House by April 15 of the first session of a Congress.
    • Term limits – Removes term limits for committee chairs and members of the Budget Committee.
    • Depositions – Authorizes each standing committee (except the Committee on Rules) and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to take depositions without a Member being present.
    • Hearing and markup requirement – Requires a committee and/or subcommittee hearing and markup for any bill or joint resolution that the Rules Committee reports for House floor consideration (subject to Rules Committee waiver).
    • Select committee on climate – Establishes a Select Committee on Climate Crisis to investigate, study, make findings and develop recommendations on policies, strategies and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis. The Select Committee, however, does not have subpoena authority.
  • Consensus calendar: Creates a consensus calendar to expedite measures with bipartisan support (i.e., with at least 290 co-sponsors) that are unreported by committee. The Speaker also must designate at least one such measure for floor consideration any week in which the House is in session.
  • Bill text availability for 72 hours: Requires that legislative text be made available electronically to the public for a full 72 hours before it is considered in the House. Previously, the legislative text could not be considered before "the third day" on which it had been made available to Members, Delegates and the Resident Commissioner, and a portion of a day was construed to be a full day.
  • Discharge petitions: Amends the discharge petition process by requiring the Speaker to schedule consideration of privileged motions to discharge legislation within two legislative days after a Member announces an intention to offer the motion. Previously, the process restricted consideration of such motions to the second and fourth Mondays of a month.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Excludes religious headwear from the prohibition on wearing hats in the House chamber; prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by any House Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer or employee; establishes the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to create a diversity plan, including policies to direct and guide House offices to recruit, hire, promote and retain a diverse workforce.
  • Budget, appropriations and taxation: The new rules contain the following changes to House authority regarding the budget, revenue-raising and expenditures:

    • Net increase in budget authority – Removes the point of order prohibiting appropriations bill amendments that propose a net increase in budget authority in a bill. It retains the requirement that the bill, as amended, remain within the limits contained in an adopted budget resolution.
    • Supermajority vote – Removes the requirement that the House agree by a 3/5 supermajority to a proposal raising revenue through additional federal income taxes raised by amending certain subsections of the Internal Revenue Code.4
    • PAYGO – Reinstates the PAYGO rule that any proposed new spending that increases the deficit or reduces the surplus must be offset by an equivalent amount of new revenue and/or reduced spending.
    • Dynamic scoring – Removes the requirement that the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation make assumptions regarding changes in macroeconomic variables (also called "dynamic scoring") when preparing estimates on budgetary effects of major legislation.
    • Suspending debt limit – Provides that, when the House adopts a concurrent resolution for a budget for a fiscal year, it is considered simultaneously to have passed a separate joint resolution suspending the federal debt limit through September 30 of that fiscal year. Separate Senate action on the budget resolution is no longer required in order to trigger automatic passage in the House of the joint resolution without any further action.
  • Banning conduct: Bans sexual relationships between Members and House employees; bans Members and staff from serving as an officer or director of any public company.
  • Service of indicted Members in leadership and on committees: Establishes a policy that a Member, Delegate or Resident Commissioner indicted or formally charged with criminal conduct for a felony offense punishable by at least two years in prison should resign from serving in party caucus or conference leadership positions or on any committee.

Title II – Select Committee on Modernization of Congress

Title II establishes a Select Committee on Modernization of Congress to investigate, make findings, hold hearings and develop recommendations on modernizing Congress through rules to promote a more modern and efficient Congress; procedures including the schedule and calendar; policies to develop the next generation of leaders; staff recruitment, diversity, retention, and compensation and benefits; administrative efficiencies; technology and innovation; and the Franking Commission (dealing with congressional mailing standards). The Select Committee will include 12 Members: six appointed by the Speaker and six by the Minority Leader.

Title III – Intervention in Litigation Involving Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Title III authorizes the Speaker to intervene in Texas v. United States, No. 4:18-cv-00167-O (N.D. Tex)5 or any appellate proceedings arising from the case. It also authorizes the Speaker, in consultation with the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group6, to intervene in any other cases involving the ACA, and it directs the House Office of General Counsel to represent the House in any such litigation, employing outside counsel or other outside experts, as needed.


1 The U.S. Senate applies its rules continuously from one Congress to the next and did not attempt at the opening of the 116th Congress to change its rules, which requires a two-thirds vote in favor of terminating debate in order to move to a vote on such a measure.

Pelosi and McGovern Unveil Details of Rules Package for the 116th Congress (January 1, 2019), https://rules.house.gov/press-release/pelosi-and-mcgovern-unveil-details-rules-package-116th-congress.

See H. Res. 6, Adopting the Rules of the House of Representatives for the One Hundred Sixteenth Congress, and for other purposes, 116th Congress, 1st Session (January 2019); H. Res. 6, Adopting the Rules for the 116th Congress, Section-by-Section Analysis, Committee on Rules, U.S. House of Representatives (January 2019).

4 The original 3/5 supermajority requirement, first adopted by a Republican Congress in 1995, applied only to limited subsections of the Internal Revenue Code establishing tax rates.  See I.R.C §§ 1(a)-(e), 11(b), 55(b) (1986).

5 In Texas v. United States, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled that the tax bill that Congress enacted in December 2017 (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Pub.L. 115–97) effectively rendered the ACA unconstitutional. The 2017 tax law amended the ACA's so-called "individual mandate" by zeroing out the penalty tax imposed on individuals who fail to purchase insurance. Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court in National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519 (2012) upheld the constitutionality of the ACA on grounds that the individual mandate was a legitimate exercise of Congress' taxing authority. The Texas court held that, because the individual mandate is no longer a tax after enactment of the 2017 tax law, the individual mandate is an unconstitutional exercise of congressional authority. The court also ruled the balance of the ACA unconstitutional, reasoning that its other provisions rely on, and are inseverable from, the individual mandate.

6 The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group has been a standing body of the House since 1993. Comprising five members of the House leadership (the Speaker, the majority and minority leaders, the majority and minority whips), it directs the activities of the House Office of General Counsel.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions