About an hour before the government shut down on Oct. 1, Rep. Louise Slaughter had a largely overlooked, but heated exchange with House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions about a tiny rule change that kept House Democrats from keeping the government open.
The exchange occurred shortly after House Republicans rejected the Senate’s clean version of the continuing resolution. In response, they passed H.J. Res. 59, which included the controversial anti-Obamacare amendment Senate Democrats had previously rejected, and a request for conference with the Senate.
There was also a rules change in the fine print of that bill, sent over by the Rules Committee, which stripped House members of their “privilege” to bring up a passed Senate bill for a vote. The rule in question, Clause 4 of Rule XXII of the House of Representatives, states that “when the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendments shall be privileged.”
In other words, any member of the House could have brought H.J. Res. 59 up for a vote without its amendments, effectively letting the chamber vote on a clean funding bill—which, based on the 20 or so Republicans who said they would vote for such a bill, likely has the numbers to pass.
The architects of H.J. Res. 59, however, removed that possibility by granting the “privilege” power only to the House Majority Leader “or his designee.” So even if the votes existed to pass the Senate’s clean bill, Eric Cantor had to be the one to bring it to a vote.