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House GOP opens up amendment process for first time in seven years, allowing debate and delay

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(WASHINGTON) — For the first time in nearly seven years, the House on Thursday brought legislation to the floor under a “modified-open rule” — a change that leads to more open debate on the floor, its supporters say, though others say it removes restrictions intended to efficiently move proposals through Congress.

Republicans put an energy bill on the floor Thursday evening with a process that, prior to the vote, allowed any member to submit amendments in the Congressional Record.

It’s the first time such amendments have been allowed since May 2016 — and the first time since 2013 with non-spending related legislation.

The rule change was negotiated during Kevin McCarthy’s fight for the speakership when his detractors asked for more open debate on bills.

“This is what we promised the American public. This is what we promised members on both sides: that there will be more openness, more opportunity for ideas to win at the end of the day,” McCarthy told reporters earlier this week.

Some Republicans were critical of the use of “closed” or “structured” special rules under Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership in the chamber. Those processes limit amendments for consideration or eliminate them from being brought to the floor altogether.

Experts have noted how supporters of those rules say it makes the chamber run more efficiently by limiting how a bill can be revised and debated by the full chamber.

A Pelosi source also said that the closed and structured rules gave her control of the floor process, which she preferred.

The new process requires that any member who submitted their amendment in time to the Congressional Record also be able to speak on the floor. That could include members of the Democratic minority, who could use amendment proposals to spotlight attacks on legislation and create procedural hurdles.

For the energy bill taken up Thursday, 143 amendments were submitted — but not all of the amendments will receive a vote. The House was expected to continue debating the proposed amendments into the night and vote Friday.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said the rule change is an example of the GOP “opening things up.”

The energy bill the House introduced the new amendment process with would tie Strategic Petroleum Reserve releases to increased drilling on federal lands and waters, which is a key priority for Republicans in the chamber.

Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said on the House floor that “this bill is about restoring America’s energy security.”

“It provides a path towards making energy more affordable for Americans, who are looking to us to help ease the pain at the pump,” she said.

The White House is against the proposal and it is almost certain not to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The House also recently voted to ban sales from the petroleum reserve to China. That legislation passed with bipartisan support, in a 331-97 vote, with 113 Democrats joining Republicans.

ABC News’ Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.

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