U.S. House Democrats introduce ethics, legislative reforms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday unveiled a package of ethics and legislative reforms for the new Congress set to convene Sunday, including barring former lawmakers convicted of federal crimes from the House floor.

FILE PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to reporters during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. December 30, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Democrats are set to hold a narrower 222-211 in the 435-member House during the 117th Congress, with one vacancy and one race undecided.

Pelosi said the reforms “will make the House more accountable, transparent and effective in our work to meet the needs of the American people.”

One change angering Republicans is a revision to parliamentary rules that allow the minority to offer an amendment as part of a “Motion to Recommit” after a bill is approved. The new rules allow the minority to demand a vote on whether the bill should be returned to committee without any proposing or debating specific revisions.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on Twitter said the change “just destroyed over 100 years of representation in Congress.”

Democrats said the change would ensure the motion “is no longer used to hijack the legislative process for political gamesmanship.”

The rules changes would bar former House members convicted of crimes related to their legislative service or election from the House floor.

Last month, President Donald Trump pardoned two former Republican lawmakers who had pleaded guilty to federal crimes.

Democrats would make it a violation of the Code of Official Conduct for a lawmaker or employee to disclose the identity of a whistleblower or disseminate manipulated media, including photos and videos, known as “deepfakes.”

The proposed rules would also protect House whistleblowers from retaliation.

Democrats would establish a Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth “to prioritize our commitment to ensuring that no one is left behind in the 21st Century Economy” and extend the life of select panels on coronavirus and climate issues.

Lawmakers would also change “pronouns and familial relationships in the House rules to be gender neutral,” make permanent the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and require a survey of the diversity of witness panels at committee hearings.

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