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National Govt & Politics
House Democrats unveil proposed rules changes for 116th Congress
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House Democrats unveil proposed rules changes for 116th Congress

House Democrats unveil proposed rules changes for 116th Congress
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

House Democrats unveil proposed rules changes for 116th Congress

With the 116th Congress set to convene on Thursday afternoon, House Democrats have rolled out a package of rules updates for the chamber which put their party's imprint on the workings of the House, covering everything from making lawmakers pay for legal judgments against them, to technical changes in budget rules, to a plan to speed through resolutions allowing Congress to raise the debt limit, and creation of a special panel on future changes to the U.S. House.

"It restores the people’s voice by aligning Congress’ agenda with the priorities of the American people," wrote Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and new House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA).

The proposed changes plow some familiar ground, as Republicans and Democrats change certain items in a back-and-forth manner, depending on which party controls the House, but also contain some substantive changes on the consideration of legislation, ethics reforms, and how the House operates.

Here are some highlights from the Democratic rules plan:

1. Members required to pay for all types of discrimination settlements. Not satisfied with the details of a bill agreed to in late December by the House and Senate, which requires lawmakers - and not taxpayers - to pay for any settlements involving sexual harassment, the new House rules would require lawmakers to be financially responsible for any discrimination judgment against them, whether it involves sexual misconduct, or discrimination based upon race, religion, disability, and more. A separate rules change would also prohibit sexual relationships between members and committee staffers. Currently, that prohibition only applies to staffers who are directly employed by the lawmaker.

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2. Immediate actions against indicted lawmakers. With two Republican lawmakers now under indictment, a new rule from Democrats would officially say that any lawmaker charged with a felony must step aside from any committee and leadership positions until the criminal case is disposed of. A separate new rule would also ban anyone employed by the House - whether a member, staffer, or official - from serving on a corporate board. That's an issue for Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who faces charges of insider trading involving a biotech company in Australia. Not only was Collins the largest shareholder of Innate Immunotherapeutics, but also a member of Innate's board of directors. Another rule change would force the Ethics Committee to immediately pursue an investigation involving a lawmaker who has been indicted or charged with a crime.

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3. Democrats would create two new Select Committees. The first new House panel to be set up by Democrats has been known for some time - a committee to specifically examine the issue of climate change - which will be led by by Rep. Cathy Castor (D-FL). The second special panel will be on the "Modernization of Congress" - and will be tasked to look at how best to fashion rules, scheduling, technology, staff, and more to 'promote a more modern and efficient Congress.'

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4. Back and forth. Back and forth. The two parties obviously see things differently on a number of policy matters, and those differences extend to how the House is run as well. Now that Democrats are back in charge, they will again change the name of one House panel to what they like, the Committee on Education and Labor. Republicans had renamed the panel, the Committee on Education and the Workforce. And the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will be renamed the Committee on Oversight and Reform. Also, Democrats will restore the right of delegates from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands, to vote in certain situations when bills were being amended in the House, but not on votes for final passage of legislation. Democrats gave the delegates those voting rights in 1993, and Republicans took it away in 1995. Democrats restored that in 2007. Republicans took it away in 2011. Democrats will restore it again in 2019.

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5. New limits on efforts to depose a Speaker. After watching members of the House Freedom Caucus threaten to oust a pair of House GOP Speakers in recent years, the new Democratic rules package will limit the ability of lawmakers to force a vote during a session to push out a Speaker, using what is known as a 'motion to vacate' the chair. Under the new rules proposed by Democrats, any motion to vacate would have to be offered at the direction of the leadership of one of the parties - in other words, a single lawmaker or a small group of lawmakers could not force such a procedural vote in hopes of deposing a Speaker - instead, they would need the majority support of their party to be able to make that attempt on the floor of the House. Currently, just a small number of members could oust a Speaker - who needs a majority of 218 votes to be elected.

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6. A "real" 72-hour rule for legislation. When Republicans took over the House after the Obama health law, there was a lot of talk in GOP circles about "READ THE BILL" - and in order to have enough time, Republicans instituted a three-day rule to allow lawmakers time to look at legislation. But what it turned into was a procedure where a bill would be unveiled around 11:30 pm on a Tuesday - that would be day one - then after a second day, the bill would be voted on early on day three. So, it wasn't a true 3-day rule. Democrats say they are going to have a real 72-hour clock, which would start running when the legislation is posted online. I don't want to be the cynical curmudgeon in the Press Gallery - but I'll believe this when I see it.

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7. Hats not okay - religious headwear is fine. Another change in the House rules being proposed by the Democrats would deal with what lawmakers can wear on the floor. Currently, you cannot wear a hat on the floor. The only time I can remember a lawmaker wearing a hat was over in the Senate, after one Republican Senate had undergone brain surgery, and wore a baseball cap for a few weeks to cover the scars on his head. Other than that, hats are verboten. But with a new Muslim Democrat from Minnesota, Rep.-Elect Ilhan Omar, the rules would be changed to allow her to wear a religious headscarf on the House floor.

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8. Various legislative provisions are also in this rules plan. The sixty page rules package - which can be read here - and a section-by-section analysis here - also has some legislative items tucked into it. The plan would make in order the funding bills that Democrats want to pass to end the partial government shutdown which started on December 22. It would also basically end any votes on raising the debt limit on the House floor, "deeming" a separate resolution that suspends that debt limit through September 30 of the budget year, and sends that on to the Senate - what is known as the "Gephardt Rule," after ex-Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO). The rules plan also does away with the simple motion to table a measure on the War Powers Act - in other words, it would prevent the majority from quickly blocking votes on efforts to force debate on the use of U.S. military force, as just happened a few weeks ago when Republicans in the House blocked action on any plan dealing with an end to U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia in the civil war in Yemen. The plan also makes several technical changes in the most recent budget agreement from 2018. My father always told me technical changes are never done just because a comma needs to be moved.

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9. PAYGO is back. Dynamic scoring is out. For you Legislative Nerds on Capitol Hill, this one might get talked about at lunch on Wednesday - while for much of the country, no one will notice. But the new Democratic rules package will again institute what are known as "pay-as-you-go" rules, which require some semblance of budgetary order in the House. If you are going to add spending, and it increases the deficit, then you need to offset that, and find a way to pay for it. That's not exactly what some Democratic activists were hoping for in the Democratic rules package. Also, the use of 'dynamic scoring' to calculate how tax policy changes impact the budget deficit will no longer be allowed. Expect the PAYGO change to draw some fire from more liberal Democrats who believe it would stand in the way of social safety net legislation.

10. A new "Consensus Calendar." This rules change would allow pieces of legislation which are backed by a veto-proof majority in the House of 290 votes, to get time on the floor for debate and a vote. Along with changes in the Discharge Petition process, the new rules are designed to open up new avenues to get bills and resolutions to the floor which otherwise might be squashed by the majority party. More than likely, these plans would allow votes on issues that have extra support among the minority party - but could also pave the way for bipartisan legislation that cuts across both parties, and gets around opposition within the leadership.

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This plan is expected to be voted on Thursday, after the vote on elevating Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to the post of Speaker of the House.

Pelosi will be the first person to regain the post of Speaker - after serving time in the minority - since Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-TX) did that in the 1950's, when the House chamber switched between Democrat and Republican control.

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Local News

  • There is a chance of rain and thunderstorms for Athens and northeast Georgia. The threat of severe weather, apparently diminishing overnight, nonetheless leads several school districts in south Georgia—Albany among them—to cancel classes for the day.  From Channel 2 Action News… There are several metro Atlanta counties under a Tornado Watch early Friday morning as a line of storms and rain move into the area. Severe Weather Team 2 has been tracking the system all week as it moved through the country. The Tornado Watch has been issued for Troup, Meriwether, Pike and Upson counties.
  • The University of Georgia gymnastics team begins competition in the NCAA Finals: the Gym Dogs are taking part in the tournament set for this weekend in Fort Worth Texas.  “We’re peaking at the right time,” says Georgia coach Courtney Kupets Carter. Oklahoma is ranked first going into the tournament. UGA is eighth.
  • A Newton County fine arts teacher faces two felonies for allegedly sexually assaulting students last month, authorities said. Christopher Ehren Matyas, born in 1980, of Covington, was arrested Thursday and charged with two counts of sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority, according to a sheriff’s office arrest report. He was a teacher at Alcovy High School, and both school employees and students reported the alleged sexual assaults on March 22, according to the police report obtained by Channel 2 Action News. Newton County School District spokeswoman Sherri Davis sent the news station a statement that said, in part:  “School officials launched an investigation and immediately reported the allegations to local law enforcement. Mr. Matyas was removed from the classroom setting and placed on leave during the course of the investigation. He will not return to the classroom.” He’s out of jail on a $16,700 bond, records show.
  • A White County judge denies bond for Mitch Simpson. The former Cleveland car dealer closed his auto lot earlier this year; he was arrested in March on theft charges.From WSB TV…   A north Georgia car dealer was denied bond Thursday in what’s now being described as a more than $2 million fraud and theft case, prompted by a Channel 2 investigation. Mitch Simpson was arrested and charged with three counts of felony theft by conversion late last month. They were tied to unpaid state vehicle taxes in which nearly 60 buyers say they paid Mitch Simpson Motors for their purchases, but their TAVT taxes were left unpaid and their titles were never delivered. Those purchases spanned a time period between late 2018 and early 2019, right before the Cleveland dealership shut its doors, and the buyers came to Channel 2 after unsuccessful attempts to contact Simpson. Soon the Georgia Department of Revenue began working with the White County Sheriff’s Office and state Attorney General’s Office to investigate the case. On Thursday, the Georgia DOR filed two additional theft charges in the case and argued against bond in Simpson’s case. A prosecutor revealed a much larger, complex case while highlighting Simpson’s 2011 federal conviction in a car loan scam. He served probation in the case, while several other co-defendants went to federal prison. In addition to $385,000 in unpaid vehicle taxes that were collected, prosecutors say Simpson failed to pay multiple floor planning companies $780,000 for vehicles they financed. Those companies essentially act as a bank for car dealerships, lending them the money to provide inventory on car lots. In a third tier of the ongoing investigation, prosecutors allege Simpson double and sometimes triple-financed the same vehicle through the lenders, pocketing about $1.3 million. Simpson’s attorney hit back at those allegations after a state investigator told the court Simpson’s personal bank records had been subpoenaed but not yet analyzed. Search warrants netted titles and documents from Simpson’s Habersham County home, as investigators say evidence was taken out of the car dealership building. “He has a compelling story, and there are certainly issues with the state’s case,” defense attorney Jeff Wolff told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr. Wolff highlighted in court that Simpson simply managed the namesake lot and that it was owned by his former in-laws.  No one else has been charged in the case, and employees of McGregor Financial, the dealership’s in-house financing company, have cooperated with investigators. They’ve maintained their role was financing and Simpson had access to accounts and paid the bills, according to investigators’ testimony. “It was an underfunded business,” Wolff said. “And that’s a large gap between an underfunded business and criminal enterprise.” About a half-dozen friends and family members served as character witnesses for Simpson, arguing against a notion that he’d serve as a flight risk in this case. Perhaps his strongest supporter was his 86-year-old mother, Elsie Hogan, who said Simpson never had a desire to leave his north Georgia roots, even when he faced trouble in his earlier federal case. “He says he’ll never fly until he gets his wings and goes to heaven,” Hogan said. Hogan also revealed she’d used yard sale money to pay for Simpson’s heart medication while he was in jail. She pushed back against any suggestion that he’d profited from stolen car lot funds. “He has no money at all. He has nothing. He has nothing, sir,” Hogan said, answering Wolff’s questions. Nonetheless, Superior Court Judge Joy Parks ruled against bond in the case, citing the complexity and seriousness of the newly-revealed allegations. A grand jury is set to convene in June. The good news for Simpson’s car buyers is that they are receiving their titles. Fifty-three of the car buyers affected are from Georgia, and the state says it worked with those floor planning companies to get the missing titles. “We've been able to obtain 52 (titles) with the help of the Attorney General's Office. It's been a great win for us,” said Josh Waites, director of special investigations for the Georgia Department of Revenue. The department says it continues to receive complaints tied to purchases from Simpson. Outside of court, car buyers Paul Cleiman and Justin Mathis thanked Channel 2 for exposing the case. Both men have either received titles or expect them any day after four months of uncertainty. “It’s been a long battle,” said Mathis. “We appreciate you, Nicole. We wouldn’t be here today without you.” 'I don’t think it was getting any attention until you stepped in and got the Department of Revenue involved,” Cleiman said. “We need justice, and I think that’s been served today for now.”

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart and his staff will spend hours breaking down film of the G-Day Game exhibition, and the players will, too. But there are some things that don’t require any sort of instant replay and should have been obvious to all. Here are three quick takeaways from the Bulldogs’ annual scrimmage: Backup QBs better than expected For all the hand-wringing that took place when Georgia’s primary backup transferred to Ohio State, the Bulldogs look to be in good shape at the position. Saturday wasn’t Jake Fromm’s best day, but everyone has seen enough from the rising junior and team captain to know he’ll deliver in 2019. RELATED: Jake Fromm ‘didn’t play up to the standard’ Former UGA walk-on and junior college QB Stetson Bennett and early enrollee D’Wan Mathis were two of the most pleasant surprises for many in the G-Day Game, however. Teammates saw what Bennett could do in bowl practices in 2017, and Smart said during the SEC Network broadcast that he had already seen what Mathis was capable of during spring drills. But for Bennett and Mathis to look so good — each in his own way — with the bright lights showing and fans in the stands had to help the coaches sleep easier while validating James Coley’s promotion to offensive coordinator for the few remaining doubters. Bennett was the most efficient quarterback on the team on Saturday, looking comfortable in the pocket when taking snaps for the Red Team and Black Team. Bennett was a combined 12-of-23 passing for 210 yards with a TD and no sacks. The 6-foot-6 Mathis showed off his big arm (a well-placed deep pass was dropped) and eye-popping foot speed. The freshman from metro Detroit was 15-of-28 for 113 yards with an interception, but he also had a 20-yard scramble and caught a 39-yard TD pass on a trick play. Secondary on point Georgia’s award-winning film crew has put out tremendous highlights on its Twitter account through spring and, let’s face it, the sight of a receiver skying high to catch a pass is more pleasing to the football eye than a DB deflecting a pass. But Saturday showed us what else has been happening behind the walls Smart has put up around the program, and it didn’t take long. Eric Stokes burst on the scene at Missouri last season, and since then it seems at each turn he’s making plays and standing out. Stokes’ Pick-6 of Fromm on the opening drive was a “Wow” moment, and the first-team secondary made lift hard on the starting quarterback the rest of the day. The UGA quarterbacks were a combined 43-of-83 for 489 yards with 3 TDs and 2 interceptions — and were sacked seven times. Considering the quarterbacks weren’t “live,” and the defense was laying off on big hits, those are not overly impressive passing numbers. Mark Webb had 3 pass break-ups to lead the secondary, and William Poole and D.J. Daniel each had 2. In addition to Stokes’ interception, Latavious Brini also had a pick. There were only two runs of 20 yards or more — Swift had a 27-yarder, and Mathis sprinted for 20 — and two conventional passes that went for more than 25 yards. Early enrollee Lewis Cine, the No. 3-ranked safety in the 2019 class, had 8 tackles — sharing team-high honors with returning safety starter Richard LeCounte.   Eric Stokes talking about his Pick-6 at the beginning of #GDay pic.twitter.com/Tt4gVHsLtb — 960 The Ref (@960theref) April 20, 2019   Program locked in The Georgia G-Day Game had every reason to be a flop, the cold, damp and windy weather was horrid, and one of the most electrifying players on the team was sidelined by illness. Instead, more than 50,000 Bulldogs tuned out and the Red Team and Black Team came sprinting out of different tunnels and played with great exuberance. A mic’d up Smart put the showbiz aside, interrupting questions and breaking sentences mid-stream to coach his team with every bit of the same fervor he shows in practice each day. Everybody on the team was intent on having their best day, which only seemed to make Fromm feel worse in the post game as he repeatedly beat himself up over his performance. That’s how intense and locked in the Georgia football program is right now, from the fan base, to the head coach, into the locker room and spilling out on the field Saturday. Georgia football DawgNation G-Day Game WATCH: Matt Landers discusses his G-Day performance WATCH: Georgia G-Day Game beat writers breakdown RELATED: Eric Stokes experiences good and bad at cornerback WATCH: Kirby Smart shares thoughts on G-Day Game Georgia football lands major commitment on G-Day Demetris Robertson illness revealed by Kirby Smart Stock report from Georgia G-Day Game Instant analysis of Georgia football G-Day Game Georgia G-Day Game football report card   The post 3 takeaways from G-Day: Georgia football quarterbacks surprise appeared first on DawgNation.
  • G-Day in Athens is much more than what happens on the field of play. 
  • ATHENS — Clearly, the Georgia Bulldogs have big plans for Matt Landers. Believe it or not, they’re not based on him throwing touchdown passes. Landers, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman receiver from Pinellas, Fla., was unable to haul in a touchdown catch during the G-Day Game on Saturday. But he threw for one. The 39-yard TD throw came on a reverse off a lateral from running back James Cook and it was caught by quarterback D’Wan Mathis midway through the third quarter. That gave Landers something Mathis wanted — a TD pass — and Mathis something Landers wanted — a TD catch. But nobody was complaining afterward. “I didn’t see that coming,” Landers said with a laugh. How could he have? Landers said they didn’t even practice the play. He said it was something that Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley drew up for the Black Team during Friday’s meeting-room preparations. Coley made it clear they were going to run it on Saturday. They just weren’t sure when or how well it would work. “It worked,” Landers said with a laugh. “We didn’t practice it at at all. We just went over it. Coach Coley drew it up and we came out here and did it today. It just worked.” To perfection, in fact. It’s nothing that we all haven’t seen in little league, or somewhere along the line. Running back James Cook went left and took a handoff from Mathis, who went right. So did Landers, coming from the left side of the field on a revers. “The DB that was on me came on a blitz and they tackled Cook, so they thought the play was over,” Mathis said. “When he pitched it to me, I saw D’Wan wide open and I knew that was my chance to throw. The ball came out good and we executed and scored.” That was a fun play, but not really what Landers was focused on coming into Saturday’s scrimmage or going out. Landers was targeted early and often in Saturday’s G-Day Game. In the end, though, he came away with only two catches for 54 yards. That 52 of those yards came on one catch did help him process the disappointment. “Really it’s just getting an opportunity,” said Landers, who was a 3-star prospect coming out of St. Petersburg High Schoo. “Seeing that a lot of guys left, I knew I was going to be the guy that had to step up. I’d been hearing I have a lot of potential, but I just wanted to go out there and see for myself.” Landers was targeted on deep balls at least two other times on Saturday. But he was unable to come down with either one, a point of contention for coach Kirby Smart. “We’ve seen flashes of really good things from Matt; we’re seeing more of those flashes; with those flashes, we’ve got to see him come down with some 50-50 balls,” Smart said. “There were a couple of balls I thought he should have pulled down early and get going. He’s become a better special teams player, too. He’s able to contribute and been more competitive. We need Matt to really step up for us.” That’s not the first time Landers has heard that. He has been hearing it from receivers coach Cortez Hankton and pretty much everybody else who sees him practice every day. With the departures of leading wideouts Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman and Terry Godwin, it’s hard not to notice the tall kid from Florida who also happens to be one of the team’s fastest players. “He’s fast, he’s got great hands, he comes out of breaks great. He’s a special talent,” quarterback Stetson Bennett said. “He’s still trying to get everything together but, gosh, he’s really good. I love throwing to him. Nobody’s telling us to do that. We just believe in him.” Obviously the Georgia coaches share that belief. They must to trust him to take a pitch and throw a bomb downfield without ever rehearsing it in practice. But that’s not what the Bulldogs are looking for from Landers. Catching balls should be good enough from now on. “Matt’s had a good spring,” Smart said. “Matt’s level of consistency has to improve. Matt has to play to Matt’s standard all the time.”   The post WATCH: Matt Landers on his TD pass and trying to crack Georgia’s WR rotation appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm didn’t take any hits in the G-Day Game on Saturday. Good thing, because Fromm spent most of the post game beating himself up. This, despite his Red Team winning the annual scrimmage over the Black Team by a 22-17 count at Sanford Stadium. “ It is what is it, everybody else on offense played really well, and I didn’t play up to the standard that I wanted to play,” Fromm said. “But as an offensive unit, we played well, we moved the ball.” Fromm was 14-of-29 passing for 116 yards with a touchdown and an interception Fromm, it’s worth noting, ranked fifth in the nation in passing efficiency last season. Sophomore cornerback Eric Stokes picked off Fromm’s second pass attempt of the game and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. Junior go-to receiver J.J. Holloman slipped on the play, and that enabled Stokes to jump the route, and he out-fought Holloman for the football. Fromm, the only returning permanent captain from the 2018 season, declined to place any blame on anyone but himself. “Every now and then there’s that game,” Fromm said. “(A) ball that’s a little wet when it’s a little windy.” Fromm conceded the offensive playbook was watered down. Georgia obviously was not wanting to show the new elements coordinator James Coley has added.   But, Fromm pointed out, the defense was limited, too. “It’s a couple factors, obviously some days you have it, some days you don’t,” Fromm said of his uncharacteristically mediocre stat line. “It being a spring game, pretty bland on offense. “We definitely take a lot of things off the table, but that’s part of it, and so did the defense. They did a really good job and made some plays.” Fromm was also complimentary of a Georgia fan base that put more than 50,000 in Sanford Stadium despite temperatures in the 40s on a damp and windy day. “I’m super thankful to the fans that came out with it being Easter (weekend), “ Fromm said, “it being a rainy day, and we’re super thankful for the fans who came out today, showing their love and getting to watch the work we’ve been putting in this spring.” Georgia football QB Jake Fromm Georgia football DawgNation G-Day Game WATCH: Georgia G-Day Game beat writers breakdown RELATED: Eric Stokes experiences good and bad at cornerback WATCH: Kirby Smart shares thoughts on G-Day Game Georgia football lands major commitment on G-Day Demetris Robertson illness revealed by Kirby Smart Stock report from Georgia G-Day Game Instant analysis of Georgia football G-Day Game   The post WATCH Georgia QB Jake Fromm: ‘didn’t play up to the standard’ in G-Day Game appeared first on DawgNation.