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Rules Committee Threatens to Nix Debate on Defense Spending

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Important amendments could be locked out of the defense appropriations bill process.

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This evening, the House Committee on Rules is set to consider amendments to the Defense Appropriations Act, H.R. 2397. The largest spending bill, the Defense Appropriations bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation regarding defense policy. Proposed amendments address a wide range of topics, including wasteful spending on unwanted programs, funding for conflicts in Syria and Egypt, and even NSA surveillance.

House leadership is poised to cut short the debate, however. Rules Committee Chairman Representative Pete Sessions (R-Texas) is considering a “rule that may limit the amendment process”—a structured, or modified closed, rule that would cut out any amendments the Committee deems too troublesome. In other words, the committee and leadership could cut anything they don’t like.

Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.), author of controversial amendments that would cut funding to NSA surveillance programs, has been the driving force behind the push-back to the closed rule. Rules Committee consideration of the amendments has now been postponed twice.

Having a closed or structured rule on the bill would be a break from tradition. Previous Defense Appropriations bills have had open rules—no restrictions on the number or type of amendments that can be voted on by the full House.

Last week, fiscally conservative organizations who are our allies on many issues, including cutting wasteful spending at the Pentagon, circulated a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other House leadership asking them to allow a vote on these important issues.

From the letter:

You have indicated several times your preference for free and open debate on the floor. On behalf of our members and supporters we strongly urge you to maintain the traditional open rule and open amendment process for this important bill.

Let’s hope the leadership listens.

Image from Flickr user Timothy Holt.

By: Christine Anderson
Public Policy Fellow, POGO

Christine Anderson Christine Anderson is a public policy fellow for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Congressional Oversight, Wasteful Defense Spending

Authors: Christine Anderson

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