Ahead of the November elections, one of the House GOP’s biggest promises to its base was that it would make sure legislation was publicly available online for three days before putting it on the floor for a vote. From the Pledge to America: “We will ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives.”
However, in a draft of their proposed rules for the House in the 112th Congress, they reportedly left themselves quite a loophole: the powerful Rules Committee seemingly won’t be subject to the transparency requirements and can amend and even replace any bill. As Politico reported Wednesday, “That would leave GOP leaders a significant exemption to make last-minute changes without such a long period of public scrutiny.”
This does not please the Tea Party.
“If there are loopholes used by the GOP to circumvent transparency, you can be sure that Tea Party Patriots across the nation will make it known to Republicans that such behavior is unacceptable,” says Mark Meckler, co-founder of the influential Tea Party Patriots, in an email to me. “This is not about the philosophy of the majority party, this is about the role of citizens. We will watchdog the system, and we will find a way to close any loopholes. In addition, any elected officials attempting to use loopholes to circumvent the expected transparency will quickly find themselves exposed to wrath of a public fed up with the games of politicians.”
The power of the House majority is enormous, and its lure is strong. Frankly nobody expected the GOP (and nobody would expect either party) to write their powers out of existence, and partisan voters tend to forget about the flipside of these powers when their party is using them. The question is whether groups like the Tea Party Patriots will actually hold Republicans’ feet to the fire or not. The proposed rules have not been finalized, and will not be adopted until the 112th Congress begins in early January.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.