Story by Mychael Schnell
The House opened up its amendment process for the first time in seven years on Thursday, and began debating on the floor more than 140 proposed changes to an oil-related bill.
House Republicans brought the Strategic Production Response Act to the floor on Thursday under what’s known as a modified-open rule.
The bill in seeks to limit the president’s ability to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), and would mandate the federal government to draw up a plan that would boost the percentage of federal lands leased for oil and gas production, should it continue withdrawing resources from the SPR.
Unlike structured or closed rules, which limit the number of amendments considered — as determined by the House Rules Committee for each bill — a modified-open rule allows anyone to submit an amendment as long as they do so the day before a bill is debated.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said it was the first time in seven years the House had used such a process, and more than 140 amendments were submitted for the bill. The amendments varied in topic, with some proposing restrictions on where oil from the SPR is sent and others seeking to place constraints on where oil and gas leases are.
A number of the amendments were passed or rejected by voice vote on Thursday. On some amendments, however, members requested a roll call vote.
The House is expected to continue debating amendments Thursday night, then vote on the entire bill Friday, a longer process than a structured or closed rule.
Conservative lawmakers had pushed for a more open legislative process in the lead up to — and during — this month’s protracted Speaker’s race in an effort to empower rank-and-file members.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) touted the process during his press conference on Tuesday.
“This week, you’re going to see something that hasn’t happened in Congress in more than seven years: a bill is going to come to the floor under an open rule,” McCarthy told reporters outside his office in the Capitol. “Think about that. The entire time the Democrats were in the majority, those four years and three years in the past, you have not had a bill come to this floor under an open rule.”
“This is what we promised the American public. This is what we promised the members on both sides. There will be more openness, more opportunity for ideas to win at the end of the day, and as we move forward,” he added.
Some Democrats had positive reviews of the modified open rule process, noting that it gives them the opportunity to have their amendments added into legislation.
“If I get some amendments passed then I’m gonna like it a lot,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who submitted five amendments, told The Hill on Thursday, adding that she is “absolutely for a transparent process.”
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) had similar thoughts.
“I think it gives the Democrats an opportunity to offer amendments,” Cohen said, noting that it could give the caucus a better chance of seeing their changes made than if the Rules Committee determined amendments.
He both brushed aside any concerns about the process taking longer than usual.