Use of the Open Rule in Congress

I am going to explore the effectiveness of the open rule Republican House leadership instituted during the 112th Congress. The open rule essentially allows any member of Congress, regardless of party affiliation or committee assignments, to propose amendments to bills on the House floor. The intention of House leadership was to make this Congress more open than previous Congresses have been. I felt it would be interesting to explore the pros and cons of operating under this rule, as well as how the members themselves feel about it.

            My inspiration for this topic arose from a discussion I was having with my father regarding the use of the open rule. He currently serves in the House of Representatives, and explained to me how some of his colleagues had bills amended in this manner. This is significant because members are able to propose amendments to legislation that they would not have otherwise had a say on, assuming the bill came from a committee they do not serve on.

            The House of Representatives has not operated under an open rule since the 1980’s, which will hopefully make this topic particularly intriguing. It will be interesting to explore the benefits and drawbacks of operating under this system. Clearly, the first implication is that this rule diminishes the power of committees to a degree, and this is something I hope to discuss with a few members.

            I plan on exploring the origins of the open rule, as well as any significant amendments in legislation that have occurred as a result of its use. I also plan on looking into why there was such a significant gap between Congresses that have operated under the rule. This is a fairly significant procedural rule in the House, so hopefully some of my peers will find interest in its use as well.

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2 Responses to Use of the Open Rule in Congress

  1. leonard.horne says:

    I like your approach here; I personally do not know of how the Congress operates at this operational level but I do see how the implications of this open rule could impact how it functions and how bills are passed/amended. This has huge potential.

    You mentioned how this could potentially diminish the influence of committees. It would be interesting to see if this open rule could perhaps render them to more of a formality than the influential bodies that they are now.

    I can’t help but think of the ATF gunwalking scandal when I think of the influence of committees on legislation and national politics. I’m excited to see how this turns out.

  2. Interesting! It will be great to see the personal side of this issue, assuming you get a chance to speak personally with members about it. I think it’s a wise move to investigate the gap in this rule’s use, too—did something significant happen in the 80’s that provided the impetus for ignoring the open rule this long?

    Good luck on your research!

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