House Republican Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) announced Tuesday that House Republicans have been largely boxed out of discussions on planning and scheduling for the upcoming House session, and setting policy priorities at the House committee level.
“Back in March, the Speaker set up a bipartisan committee to work on planning for the continuity of House business and legislative operations during this crisis. That committee held one conference call months ago, and has not met since. We are just being informed at what the Democrats have already decided to do. That’s not bipartisan cooperation,” Hinch said. “Republicans are being denied a seat at the table.”
In addition, the Speaker has made statements suggesting he instructed his policy committee chairs to reach out to the ranking Republican members of House committees to get their input on bills of priority.
“Despite the Speakers’ statements,” Hinch said, “I’m hearing very little from ranking members about two-way communication between Democrat and Republican members. In some cases there has been no communication, and in other cases, it has been one-way communication, with Democrats providing a list of their priorities to Republicans with no chance for discussion or input.”
“Given the lack of communication and cooperation we’re experiencing, you’d think that the Speaker has deemed most of the 160 member House Republican Caucus non-essential, and sent us home on furlough,” Hinch said.
Hinch continued, “‘We could have spent the last two months working on a bipartisan plan to get the people’s business done, and work on solutions to ensure House business is able to move forward safely. We could have spent the last two months discussing shared policy priorities for the remainder of the term. Instead we have mostly a one-party decision making process.”
“We don’t know if House Democrats have a plan to help manage our future budget shortfalls. We don’t know if they have a plan to help our small business community stay afloat. We don’t know if the Democrats plan on ramming through their income tax proposal yet again. We don’t know what the Speaker has in store for the House aside from a June 11th session. That is not leadership during a crisis. I’m not seeing a clear plan, or a plan at all, frankly.”
“House Republicans met via teleconference today to discuss these concerns. We absolutely agree that the House needs to get back to work, and we want to get back to work. But the consensus opinion was that unless the Democrat leadership team in the House opens up their closed decision making process, Republicans will be reluctant to enable the rule changes needed to move forward. Democrats have politicized this crisis on a regular basis, and without transparency, we can only assume they are not acting in good faith.”
Background: In March, the House voted to amend House Rule 65 to allow for the modification of deadlines in the event business was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic and require concurrence with the Republican leadership. If Republican leadership does not concur with the proposed modifications, there would need to be a ⅔ majority vote on the House floor to suspend House Rule 65(b) for any business to move forward.