Folks this article has me jumping around my office! Thankfully all the Snowflakes are gone and can’t report me. The Republicans in the House pulled off a major coup. The greatest gift for them and us is that Democrats never take the time to read through a bill. They assume because certain language is in it, they are good to go. One Democrat in the House caught it but by that point, they were ready to pass it and start their vacation.
From the article linked above:
The House Armed Services Committee version of the annual Pentagon policy bill included a common-sense provision to make sure the Pentagon isn’t tasked with paying for the wall: “Section 1039. Rule of construction regarding use of Department of Defense funding of a border wall. None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this act or otherwise made available for the fiscal year 2018 for the Department of Defense may be used to plan, develop or construct any barriers, including walls or fences, along the international border of the United States.”
A careful reading of this language (and that’s what we do at Taxpayers for Common Sense) points out this is a fairly broad prohibition. The armed services committees don’t ultimately control how federal dollars are spent. The Constitution preserves that role for the appropriations committees. But by saying “or otherwise made available … for the Department of Defense,” the House Armed Services Committee was foreclosing the possibility of spending any Pentagon money on this wall in a more comprehensive way.
Enter the House Rules Committee. A little known congressional powerhouse, the Rules Committee is also called the speaker’s committee. It’s called that because the speaker of the House simultaneously served as the chairman of the committee until 1910 and, as the committee website says, “because it is the mechanism that the speaker uses to maintain control of the House floor.”
The Pentagon policy bill, HR 2810, needed a “rule” to allow for its consideration on the House floor. The committee meets to consider the hundreds of amendments offered by House members, decide which will be allowed during House debate and determine how long that debate may last. And this is where we’re going to step off the cliff into the inner workings of the House, as I promised above.
An amendment was offered by Republican Reps. Steven Palazzo and Trent Kelly from Mississippi (which has coastline but no land border) to strike Section 1039. That means Pentagon money could be spent to construct a border wall. In the normal process of things, this amendment would have been accepted by the Rules Committee and then debated and voted on by the full House of Representatives. But nothing about this amendment can be called normal.
The Rules Committee took this one amendment and labeled it, “proposed to be adopted.” In the arcana of House rules, this means that voting for the rule governing consideration of the bill was also voting for this amendment. This is known as a “self-executing rule.” The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, offered an amendment to strike the self-executing portion of the rule and was defeated in committee on a party-line vote of 4-8.
On the House floor, the vote on the full rule passed. And at the end of a long and exhausting day (and story), that means Pentagon money CAN BE USED TO CONSTRUCT A BORDER WALL. Talk about governing under the cover of darkness.