I have written previously about Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Galt's Gulch), and the trouble the GOP is likely to have putting him, a True Believer, in charge of writing its budgets. As much as Republicans like to campaign on things like deficit reduction, they have never been much for rubber meeting the road in that regard.
However, they are about to do something quite amazing: When they vote on House rules tomorrow, they will give Ryan, one representative in a House of 435 voting members, singular authority:
Another aspect of the proposed rules also seems at odds with promises made in the campaign about what a new Republican majority would do. There was much talk about increasing the transparency of the legislative process, and some proposals in the new rules package would do that. But the new rules also include a stunning and unprecedented provision authorizing the Chairman of the Budget Committee elected in the 112th Congress, expected to be Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, to submit for publication in the Congressional Record total spending and revenue limits and allocations of spending to committees — and the rules provide that this submission “shall be considered as the completion of congressional action on a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011.” In other words, in the absence of a budget resolution agreement between the House and the Senate, it appears that Rep. Ryan (presumably with the concurrence of the Republican leadership) will be allowed to set enforceable spending and revenue limits, with any departure from those limits subject to being ruled “out of order.”In other words, Ryan can pick a number without telling anyone, at random if he wants, and that number is the spending limit for the year. Period. No debate, no vote, no transparency to the process.
This rule change has immediate, far-reaching implications. It means that by voting to adopt the proposed new rules on January 5, a vote on which party discipline will be strictly enforced, the House could effectively be adopting a budget resolution and limits for appropriations bills that it has never even seen, much less debated and had an opportunity to amend.
How are Republicans able to make such a thing possible? They are going to use a process called "deem and pass."
As soon as those rules are adopted on Wednesday, Ryan's spending levels will be considered--or "deemed"--adopted by the full House as if they'd passed a budget with a floor vote. The legislative language in the rules package holds that Ryan's spending limits, "shall be considered as contained in a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011 and the submission thereof into the Congressional Record shall be considered as the completion of congressional action on a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011."If this sounds familiar, it's because "deem and pass" is a technique long in use in the House*. Used to happen all the time--well, a lot, anyway. Until 2010, when House Democrats attempted to "deem and pass" the Senate version of the Affordable Care Act, the health care bill, and revisions to that bill in a single vote. This is something that should not have been a controversy, but House Republicans jumped all over it. They and the punditerati whose job it is to parrot GOP talking points called this act every possible evil name in the book. (I refuse to link or read the local righty bloggers anymore, but this Wisopinion blogsearch result will let you see what Wisconsin's geniuses were saying about the idea then. As I said, I don't read them anymore, but I am guessing they're pretty quiet about it today.)
Of particular interest, FOX News interviewed, surprise, Rep. Paul Ryan about deem and pass at the time: "Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called the procedure 'unprecedented' and 'breathtaking.' "
Now, of course, he is willingly going along with the GOP leadership, because this "unprecedented" and "breathtaking" action will "deem and pass" a huge chunk of power directly into his little hands. Classy!
* To be clear: I personally have no issue with deem and pass as a process--it is traditional and right up until last spring, non-controversial. It's a time-saver, basically. However, I do have a problem with two things: One, the massive power-grab itself, concentrating authority without debate or transparency into the hands of a single representative, and Two, the hypocrisy of the GOP in general, and Paul Ryan in particular.
Related, 1: When Ryan sets his budget number, he's planning to just pretend that a repeal of the Affordable Care Act won't increase the deficit. No sense living in reality when you have your hand on the biggest lever of power, eh?
Related, 2: Remember in 2007, when incoming Democratic House Oversight Committee Chair Henry Waxman wrote a letter to all of the labor unions and environmental groups in the country to ask them what investigations of the White House he should be pursuing? I don't either.