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How unusual is it for the House to fail to pass a rule? A look at the recent history

By Kristin Wilson, CNN

(CNN) — Since 1995, the House has failed to pass a rule eight times, all during Republican-led House chambers – until this year.

Newt Gingrich had six rule votes fail during his four-year tenure as speaker (1995-1999), and Dennis Hastert suffered two rule defeats in his eight years as speaker. (1999-2007)

So far, in his eight months as speaker, Kevin McCarthy has lost three rule votes, bringing the total up to 11 since 1995.

Speakers John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan never lost a rule vote during their tenures.

The House has two ways to pass legislation: By coming directly to the floor for an up-or-down vote, or making a quick pit-stop at the House Rules Committee.

What’s the difference?

Bills that come directly to the House floor for a vote and bypass the Rules Committee are passed “under suspension of the Rule” and require a two-thirds majority of the voting members to pass. Bills that make the pit-stop in the Rules Committee come to the floor with certain debate parameters that must be fulfilled, but this method enables those bills to pass the chamber with a simple majority. But those debate parameters, called “the rule,” must also first be debated and voted on before the House can debate and vote on the underlying bill.

So if it adds more time and more votes, why do it?

Simple answer – it’s easier to pass some legislation with 218 votes than 291, especially when your majority is small. The House Rules Committee – also referred to as the “speaker’s committee” – is highly allied with the House speaker and the committee membership skews heavily in the majority party’s favor. So legislation that comes through Rules is typically exactly what the majority leadership wants it to say.

How does it work?

After the Rules Committee debates and passes the rule, the bill then comes to the House floor, where the two sides debate the rule, then vote on its passage. When the rule passes, then debate on the actual bill begins. So rule failures are rare, because all that vote really does is allow the House to actually begin debating whatever bill is to follow. Voting down a rule essentially is a vote to not even discuss the bill. And since the minority party rarely, if ever, votes for a rule (see above that it’s heavily skewed to the majority) the votes to kill a rule must come from within the majority party itself.

So, voting down the rule is basically voting against your own leadership?


This story has been updated with additional developments.

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