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  • The 116th Congress, despite having a large gender disparity, has the most women its ever had holding office.

    The 116th Congress, despite having a large gender disparity, has the most women its ever had holding office. | Photo: Twitter / @AOC

Published 3 January 2019

Incoming progressive Democrats strongly opposing the inclusion of the austerity rule championed by Nancy Pelosi, saying that it’s “bad economics.”

As the new term of the United States Congress begins Jan. 2 with the most diverse membership in history, House members are expected to vote on an internal budget austerity rule known as “PAYGO” (Pay As You Go). This rule, opposed by incoming progressive Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), has been pushed by establishment Democrats like Nancy Pelosi.

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The PAYGO rule has a history dating back to the former U.S. President Bill Clinton era when it was enshrined in the law and is meant to help balance the budget by prohibiting certain types of legislation from passing without being budget neutral, meaning that if a type of new legislation required government funding, it would have to be taken from somewhere else, either cuts or taxes.

Though expired from federal law, the House of Representatives of the Congress built it into their own rules for passing legislation during Representative Nancy Pelosi’s 2007 term as speaker of the house. At the beginning of each term, the House votes to approve its rules package for the coming year.

The Democrats who now have a commanding majority since their sweeping victories in the 2019 midterm elections, can govern the rules by which the House operates. 

Despite this new power, establishment Democrats, let by presumptive Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are pushing to include the austerity measure into their rules as has been customary since the Obama era. 

Incoming progressive Democrats, like freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among others, are strongly opposing the inclusion of the rule, saying that it’s “bad economics” and that it’s “designed to hamstring progress on healthcare” and other legislation. 

For the rule to fail it requires 18 Democrats to vote against it, according to Warren Gunnels, policy director for Senator Bernie Sanders. If it passes, it heavily restricts the Democratic majority, and most especially its progressive wing, from enacting the principal legislation many of them campaigned upon like Medicare-for-All, a Green New Deal, and Student Loan forgiveness.

Paradoxically, the Republicans, who have controlled the House since 2012, and who are known for “fiscal conservatism” did not apply this rule and cut taxes to the rich without offsetting it in the budget leading to an almost  US$300 billion increase in the deficit since 2016.


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