Re: And Here We Go…

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Jay, I’m a bit mystified by this assertion from former Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier in your post:

Dreier, though, defended his record saying there’s a big difference between self-executing amendments and self-enacting large pieces of legislation.

As I noted earlier, when the Republicans were running the House, Dreier himself was pretty aggressive with self-executing rules. Here’s how Don Wolfensberger, former staff director of the Rules Committee, described what he called “the mother of all self-executing rules” (my emphasis added):

On April 26, the Rules Committee served up the mother of all self-executing rules for the lobby/ethics reform bill. The committee hit the trifecta with not one, not two, but three self-executing provisions in the same special rule. The first trigger was a double whammy: “In lieu of the amendments recommended by the Committees on the Judiciary, Rules, and Government Reform now printed in the bill, the amendment in the nature of a substitute consisting of the text of the Rules Committee Print dated April 21, 2006, modified by the amendment printed in part A of the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying this resolution, shall be considered as adopted in the House and the Committee of the Whole.”

The substitute submitted by the Rules Committee did not combine all the amendments adopted by the three reporting committees, as is customarily done. Instead, it deleted two amendments adopted by the Judiciary Committee that would have required disclosure of lobbyists’ contacts with Members and staff, and lobbyists’ solicitation and transmission of campaign contributions to candidates.

It then further amended its own substitute by automatically deleting a third Judiciary amendment requiring a Government Accountability Office study of lobbyist employment contracts.

The third self-executing provision occurs at the end of the special rule and states: “In the engrossment of H.R. 4975, the Clerk shall … add the text of H.R. 513, as passed by the House, as new matter at the end of H.R. 4975.” In other words, the Clerk was authorized to add as an amendment an entire separate bill, in this case, the House-passed legislation regulating Section 527 political committees, and thereby put that issue into conference with the Senate (which has no comparable provision in its bill).

That does indeed sound like enacting a large piece of legislation through a self-executing rule. As Wolfensberger argued, it’s not a great way to do the people’s business. But it’s hardly unprecedented.

UPDATE: As I noted in the comments section, when these guys airbrush their own records (and we’ve seen some of that on both sides here), I am often reminded of the famous Oscar Levant quote: “I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.”