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More Problem Solvers Members Pledge to Tie Speaker Vote to Rule Changes

Bipartisan caucus now has 19 members ready to oppose a candidate for speaker if they don’t back process changes

Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and the other members of the Problem Solvers Caucus say they are gaining support for the effort to revamp House rules. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and the other members of the Problem Solvers Caucus say they are gaining support for the effort to revamp House rules. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Trying to show their push to amend House rules to create more bipartisan legislative processes is serious, the Problem Solvers Caucus announced Thursday that 19 of its members are willing to oppose any speaker candidate who won’t bring about change.

The bipartisan caucus unveiled a package of proposed House rules changes in July called “Break the Gridlock” and has been coalescing support for it on both sides of the aisle. Some of the caucus members have decided to add some oomph to their sales pitch by pledging not to support a candidate for speaker unless that person commits to enacting the rules package.

“We now have 19 members who will make that commitment and stand together to make sure that we’re listening to the American people and get this [House] working for them again,” New York Rep. Tom Reed, the group’s Republican co-chairman, said at a press conference Thursday.

The nine Republican members who have taken the pledge are Reed, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Carlos Curbelo of Florida, John Katko of New York, Fred Upton of Michigan and Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania.

The 10 Democratic members who have taken the pledge are Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, co-chair of the caucus, Jim Costa of California, Tom O’Halleran of Arizona, Kurt Schrader of Oregona, Tom Suozzi of New York, Salud Carbajal of California, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas and Darren Soto of Florida.

The Problem Solvers Caucus has nearly four dozen members, 75 percent of whom back the rules package. Some of those members are retiring or running for office and won’t be here next year, and thus haven’t taken the pledge regarding the speaker vote. 

Reed predicted other caucus members will join the effort and that some non-caucus members may too.

“Other members outside of the group are reaching out and growing with us,” he said.

The number of members who’d taken the pledge was 15 two weeks ago, so the group announcing it’s now 19 is a sign of growth.

Thursday’s press conference was just the formal kickoff, Suozzi said, noting he expects there to be more interest after the midterm elections when the leadership battles will begin in earnest.

“Quite frankly, they don’t feel the sense of urgency yet,” he said of his colleagues. 

The Problem Solvers rules proposals include a fast-track process for legislation co-sponsored by at least two-thirds of the House; a guarantee each member gets at least one markup of a bipartisan bill in a committee they serve on; a three-fifths threshold to pass bills under a closed rule; and at least one germane amendment from each party for structured rules.

Reed, Gottheimer and others at the press conference acknowledged that they are not locked into securing every proposal and are open to other ideas. As Reed said, they’re a “reasonable” group. 

“Nothing is perfect and of course things can get better,” Gottheimer said. 

With the House majority expected to be narrow next year regardless of which party wins control in the November members, the Problem Solvers Caucus will have more influence, Lance said.

“The sensible center is the way forward,” he said of ensuring legislation can get through a narrowly divided House.

The Problems Solvers members say their package isn’t just about fostering bipartisanship. It’s about ensuring all members have opportunities to have input in the legislative process. 

“There is simply too much power in too few hands with too little getting done for the American people and the American people are frustrated by this,” Coffman said. 

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