When the “People’s Branch” of government takes up the Defense Appropriations bill later this week they will abandon a long-held tradition of debating the bill under an “open rule,” which would allow any amendment to be brought to the floor that does not seek to change the language of the underlying bill.
Traditionally, any amendment limiting or striking funds for any particular program was allowed to the floor under the “five minute rule,” i.e. the Member had five minutes to introduce and make the case for the amendment. It was the one way for Members who were not in leadership or doing the bidding of leadership to get their voices and priorities heard. Congressman Paul and several of his close colleagues on the Hill often made use of the appropriations bills and their open rule to introduce amendments striking funds for war on Libya, Syria, Iraq, etc.
This week, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) announced that he was ending that practice. He would be sending the bill to the floor under a rule allowing only “limited” amendments.
The reason for Sessions’ extremely unusual decision to crush open debate about the funding the Defense apparatus next year?
As reported in Defense News today, House leadership’s “fears of fights over NSA surveillance and aid to Egypt.”
The website explained further:
“An influx of amendment and debate over controversial amendments that might place restrictions on the controversial NSA surveillance programs made public and former Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden, U.S. military aid to Egypt, or the White House’s ability to intervene in Syria could bring the chamber to a slow crawl.”
What this means is that House Leadership refuses to allow Members of Congress to perform their individual responsibilities to exercise oversight over any potentially controversial aspect of US foreign policy. In other words, Congress must forbid debate. Foreign aid to Egypt must not only continue, but continue without debate. The president’s policy of arming radical jihadists in Syria could not be debated. NSA spying on Americans must not be debated.
Chairman Sessions explains in a “Dear Colleague” letter, that:
The Committee on Rules may meet during the week of July 15, 2013 to consider a rule that may limit the amendment process for H.R. 2397, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014. While this is not the traditional process for this bill, there are a number of sensitive and ongoing issues related to national security that are more appropriately handled through an orderly amendment process ensuring timely consideration of this important measure.
Not since the time of the Soviet Union has a rubber stamp been wielded so nonchalantly by an iron fist.