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House Adopts Rules After Nixing Ethics Office Change

New guidelines in chamber includes penalty for members using cellphones

House Republicans passed its rules for the 11th Congress on its first day back Tuesday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House Republicans passed its rules for the 11th Congress on its first day back Tuesday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House on Tuesday adopted a rules package for the 115th Congress after jettisoning a controversial proposal that would have significantly limited the independent Office of Congressional Ethics’ ability to investigate wrongdoing by members.

The 234-193 tally broke largely along party lines, with most Democrats opposed to the package.

New rules include a provision that would fine members up to $2,500 for  recording and using cell phones on the House floor.

That was a belated response to an overnight sit-in staged by House Democrats in June who effectively occupied the chamber to demand action on gun safety bills. The House-run cameras were shut off as the chamber was not in session, leading lawmakers to stream the proceedings on their own.

Democrats spent the day Tuesday blasting the provision. Rep. Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat who also serves as vice chairwoman of the caucus, called the move “free speech crushing” during a speech on the floor.

An additional GOP-endorsed change would allow lawmakers to offer floor amendments to spending bills that would downsize federal agencies or adjust compensation for certain federal workers. The new rule would be in effect for a year and mark the first time since the 1980s that House members could employ the appropriations process to make such changes in spending bills during floor debate.

Yet another provision in the package would effectively shield from Congressional Budget Office scoring any legislation that would require or authorize the conveyance of federal land to a state, local government or tribal entity. By not requiring the budget analysis, the affected legislation wouldn’t need offsets or pay-fors that can trip up a lands bill before it hits the House floor.

In a statement, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the rules package as a whole, “shameful.”

Jeremy Dillon contributed.Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriter

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