Bipartisan House caucus issues ultimatum over legislative congestion

A bipartisan coalition in the House of Representatives weary of the seemingly intractable partisan gridlock has devised a unique method to express displeasure with their colleagues for the incoming 116th Congress, scheduled to convene in January 2019.

The group, Problems Solvers Caucus, has vowed to abstain from voting for speaker of the House should the nominee from the majority party not support the conference’s plan aimed at removing legislative barriers in Congress’ lower chamber.

The plan calls for rules changes to facilitate order, speed up legislative efforts and make the House work more effectively.

An effort spearheaded by two members, Reps. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), the pair are determined to see the next speaker adopt a new set of rules to break the iron laws of partisanship they say hurt the country.

Currently, Problem Solvers counts 48 members of the House, evenly split on both sides of the political divide.  Fifteen of those members have signed a pledge to refrain from casting a ballot for speaker in the event House leadership rebuffs their demands.

Rolled out in July, under Problem Solvers’ “Break the Gridlock” plan, rules changes include:  Fast-tracking bill with two-thirds support; reform of “motion to vacate chair” to require one-third vote instead of a single-member vote to oust a sitting speaker; and committees made up to reflect the majority of the chamber.

Similarly, the group proposes a “supermajority” to approve bills in closed session, which disallows added amendments.

In addition to altering approval of certain legislation, Problem Solvers is pushing for a rule to allow members a markup of a single bill every session on the condition the legislation has a co-sponsor from the opposing party.

Last, the group is insisting the House adopt a rule certifying a joint bipartisan meeting at the opening of every congressional session.

So firm is the commitment to see passage of the rules change, several Problem Solvers have pledged to vote in favor of a minority candidate for speaker if he or she supports the proposed reforms.

“We either keep our word or not.  If that person is going to reform this system, it’s much more important that we get that vote taken and get that person in a position [to change the House]. That means though that they have to open it up. That means that they have to have bipartisan bills going through the body. And that means that there will be much more transparency in the process,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.).


[Roll Call]