Centrist House Democrats press for committees to follow pay-go rule

A group of freshman House Democrats — most of whom represent districts that are expected to be competitive in 2020 — on Wednesday urged committee chairs to abide by the House’s pay-as-you-go rules to ensure that legislation doesn’t add to the deficit.

“We urge you to work with us to ensure that each committee’s legislation is funded with responsible pay-fors that are considered early in the legislative process,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter. “We also ask that legislation is not advanced out of committees until it has received a [Congressional Budget Office] score.”

Rep. Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsCentrist House Democrats press for committees to follow pay-go rule Ocasio-Cortez chief of staff to leave her office The Hill’s Morning Report — Mueller testimony gives Trump a boost as Dems ponder next steps MORE (D-Kan.) took the lead on the letter, and it was also signed by Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah), Colin Allred (D-Texas), Cindy AxneCindy AxneFreshman House Democrats press for adherence to pay-go rule in committees Ethanol fight divides key groups in Trump’s base Former ‘Apprentice’ contestant ranks Trump next to Mother Teresa on women’s issues MORE (D-Iowa), Ed CaseEdward (Ed) CaseMORE (D-Hawaii), Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamGun debate to shape 2020 races Assault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch MORE (D-S.C.), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornCentrist House Democrats press for committees to follow pay-go rule The Hill’s Morning Report: Trump walks back from ‘send her back’ chants House approves bill raising minimum wage to per hour MORE (D-Okla.), Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsCentrist House Democrats press for committees to follow pay-go rule This week: House Democrats voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt New CBO report fuels fight over minimum wage MORE (D-Minn.), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerFreshman House Democrats press for adherence to pay-go rule in committees Gun debate to shape 2020 races Assault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress MORE (D-Va.) and Jeff Van DrewJeff Van DrewCentrist House Democrats press for committees to follow pay-go rule Republicans plot comeback in New Jersey The House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort MORE (D-N.J.).

With the exception of Case, all of these lawmakers hold seats that had been represented by Republicans prior to the 2018 midterm elections. Most of the signers are members of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, the centrist New Democrat Coalition, or both.

The House adopted a rules package in January that included a “pay-go” provision that establishes a point of order against bills that increase the deficit. The rule can be waived.

The freshman Democrats said in their letter they feel that so far this year, the principles of the pay-go rule “have not been followed throughout the legislative process, particularly as legislation is being considered at the committee level.” The lawmakers raised concerns about the fact that bills frequently advance out of committees before they receive a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

“Since there is limited time for a CBO study, members do not have enough time to properly consider the potential costs and pay-fors of the legislation before casting votes,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“We understand that legislation referred to multiple committees of jurisdiction can present challenges for committee chairs to identify appropriate offsets or offsets in that respective committee’s jurisdiction in advance of floor consideration,” the freshman Democrats added. “In these instances, we encourage the respective committee chairs to work collaboratively and to communicate throughout the legislative process regarding intentions for offsets.”

Roll Call first reported on the letter. 

This isn’t the first time that centrist Democrats have pressed for the House to adhere more closely to pay-go. In June, the Blue Dogs sent a letter to House Democratic leaders, warning them against disregarding the rule, after the House waived the rule to pass an immigration bill.

But the pay-go rule isn’t loved by all House Democrats, with some progressives having expressed concerns that it could make it harder to advance some of their top priorities.

A spokesman for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi updates Trudeau on status of Trump’s NAFTA revamp ACLU to ask court to block .6B reallocated from military projects to border wall Trump moving forward to divert .6B from military projects for border wall MORE (D-Calif.) said in January that the pay-go rule is necessary because without it, the White House would be able to make unilateral spending cuts that reverse Democratic priorities. Key progressive lawmakers have introduced legislation to repeal the 2010 statute that requires the White House to offset deficit-increasing legislation with mandatory spending cuts.

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