The Senate put off discussion of its rules so that the Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, could develop a proposal to curb filibusters, and try to win support from Senate Republicans.
Traditionally, the House rules package reflects the majority party's legislative positions and is opposed by the minority. The package passed in a mostly party-line vote of 228-196.
Members from each party debated many of the issues that divide them. Democrats tried unsuccessfully to include provisions against corporate political donations from secret contributors, ensuring that voters don't wait in long lines and opposing intervention in same-sex marriage court cases.
The rules would allow the House to continue to intervene on behalf of the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court has agreed to take a potentially historic look at the law, planning to hear two cases that challenge the government's different treatment of gay Americans.
Republicans ignored the plea of openly gay Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who argued that Republicans should remove the provision because they were supporting a "federal takeover of marriage and a lawyer stimulus. It's the wrong foot to start on."
Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., described
—Identify duplicative programs and examine the usefulness of existing government programs.
—Make it easier to see how proposed legislation would interact with existing law.
—Ensure that deliberations over legislation include the effects of government regulations.
—Require that annual budget resolutions include information about welfare programs.
Democrats unsuccessfully proposed changes that reflect their agenda: stopping large corporate political donations from unidentified contributors; limiting waits in voting lines to one hour and increasing days for early voting; and allowing House votes by representatives from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.
The new chairman of the House Rules Committee, Republican Pete Sessions of Texas, criticized Democrats for leveling "a lot of attacks against employers" and said their proposals should be addressed by legislation.
In a deeply divided House, Democratic legislation has little chance of passage while Republican bills pass but usually die in the Democratic-run Senate.
In the Senate, the key issue is the filibuster that allows the minority party to stall bills and nominations that garner less than 60 votes. Reid has expressed a desire to limit the number of times filibusters can be used on individual bills, while younger Democrats want to go further and require filibustering senators to actually be on the Senate floor while they are holding up bills.
Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky—and other senators—are negotiating over what changes to make. One proponent of change, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said Reid didn't want to tackle the issue while he and other leaders were handling negotiations that avoided major tax increases and spending cuts.
Reid wants to wait until after the Senate returns to legislative business on Jan. 22 to debate the rules.