Right privilege: A legislative maneuver is being used that drives a wedge in House GOP

Lauren Boebert
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who is in an unexpected tight race with Democratic challenger Adam Frisch, arrives to meet with fellow Republicans behind closed doors as Republicans hold its leadership candidate forum, where everyone running for a post must make their case to the membership, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Right privilege: A legislative maneuver is being used that drives a wedge in House GOP

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Some members of the House Republican Conference are expressing displeasure with their more conservative colleagues who continue to file privileged resolutions to circumvent leadership and regular order to force a vote on impeachment and censures.

Last week, Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) filed a privileged resolution to censure Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and fine him millions of dollars; the motion failed as 20 Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to table it. Luna filed a new privileged resolution to censure Schiff that removed the fine, and it is now expected to come up for a vote, and pass, on Wednesday.

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Following Luna filing the privileged resolution, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) filed one as well to impeach President Joe Biden, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said that she plans to turn all of the impeachment resolutions she filed into privileged resolutions.

A privileged resolution is a way to circumvent leadership and regular order and get a vote on the floor without having to go through the normal committee process. When a privileged resolution is filed, House leadership has two days to schedule it for a vote. But before the resolution itself is brought up for a vote, there is often a motion to table the resolution, which, if successful, will block the resolution from being voted on.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said he does not think privileged resolutions are as productive as regular order and is opposed to Boebert’s privileged resolution to impeach Biden.

“If we just bring something to the floor with only two days notice, what case have you made to the American public?” McCarthy asked. “I take this role very seriously. I take swearing and upholding the Constitution. So if it ever rises to that level, I’m not opposed to moving impeachment. But just to put something on the floor because someone disagrees with somebody is not the responsibility, that I believe, of doing it correctly.”

These privileged resolutions are also annoying some other members, especially those who have been in Congress for a while and respect regular order.

“This is a body where there are very few original ideas, and once somebody does something, everybody piles on,” said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. “Privileged motions are the fun thing of the day. We’ve seen this done with a variety of discharge petitions, we’ve seen this done with a variety of bills. I don’t question any member’s motive. It just seems like more than a coincidence that when something happens, there’s six or seven that look just like it later.”

A staunch ally of McCarthy and chairman of the Elected Leadership Committee, Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), also expressed his displeasure with the privileged motions saying the right way to go about things is through regular order and empowering committee chairs, not circumventing the process.

The usual way for an impeachment and censure resolution to come to the floor is for it to go through committee and then go to the floor.

“I think that things like impeachment are one of the most awesome powers of the Congress. It’s not something you should flippantly exercise in two days,” Graves said. “And I think that it actually undermines efforts to hold people accountable in the future. So, I think the right thing to do is to make sure that our committee chairs and our committee members are fully empowered to do their job and hold people accountable.”

Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), who helped manage the floor during former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, said that if someone is going to try and impeach a president, they have to do it right and not just on a whim.

“If you’re going to do it. You have to do it right. Because it’s a political remedy,” he said. “[W]e are setting up an immediate deal when the opposing party is in control of Congress from the White House we’ll just do impeachment as a matter of course, and that’s not going to be beneficial to anybody. Probably, I mean, beneficial to the president.”

Armstrong said he does find it a “little unique” for people to continue filing privileged resolutions to circumvent regular order when they “demanded all of the conference rules to go to regular order.”

Centrist Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) said he would support the motion to censure Schiff but disagrees with how it was brought up by a privileged resolution.

“These things should go through committee and be handled judiciously and seriously,” Bacon said. “When you do a privileged motion, it cheapens this stuff, particularly on with impeachment. Impeachment is so serious it should go through committee.”

Even more conservative members are displeased with the privileged resolutions being filed. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), who was one of the 12 holdouts blocking the floor earlier this month, said he believes these resolutions should go through the committee and not through a privileged motion.

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“I like the committee system; it frustrates me, but I think there’s a way to craft it so the people that file these motions can get the full credit they deserve for putting them forward,” Burchett said. “I think, ultimately, we got to have to work something out with leadership, but that’s the way it goes.”

When asked if he supports people filing privileged resolutions to circumvent regular order, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) said, “People have a right to do what they want to do.”

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