House Rules Committee Plans ‘Limited’ Amendments for Defense Appropriations Bill

U.S. House leaders are poised to limit the kinds of amendments members can offer to a 2014 Pentagon spending bill, a move that reflects leadership’s fears of fights over NSA surveillance and aid to Egypt.

The House’s powerful Rules Committee on Monday released a letter from Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, to all House members indicating the panel this week could “consider a a rule that may limit the amendment process for H.R. 2397, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014.”

“While this is not the traditional process for this bill, there are a number of sensitive and ongoing issues related to national security that are more appropriately handled through an orderly amendment process ensuring timely consideration of this important measure,” states the “dear colleague” letter.

Sessions told members “House Republicans remain committed to a process that allows the House and its members to debate the important issues of the day.”

The chamber could take up the spending legislation as soon as Thursday. It is listed under the heading of “possible consideration” on a week-long floor schedule released by GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor‘s office.

The Pentagon spending bill typically attracts hundreds of amendments, and can take the better part of a legislative week (Tuesday-Thursday) to complete on the lower chamber floor.

An influx of amendment and debate over controversial amendments that might place restrictions on the controversial NSA surveillance programs made public and former Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden, U.S. military aid to Egypt, or the White House’s ability to intervene in Syria could bring the chamber to a slow crawl.

What’s more, such a scene also would threaten to further raise partisan tensions that have at times boiled over in public — as happened last week when Democrats skewered Republicans for removing food stamp funding from the GOP’s farm bill.

“I believe that this process will allow us to meet the needs of our men and women in uniform and the people we represent,” Sessions told members.

The Rules Committee has the power to craft specific rules for specific bills up for debate on the House floor. More information on the panel’s powers can be found here.

(The Hill newspaper first reported the GOP’s plan for the revised amendment process.)

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett