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Hey, Congress! Paul Ryan Does Not Like It When You're Tardy

The new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is a punctual man. And now, he’s putting his foot down hard on colleagues who dawdle.
Image: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell And House Speaker Paul Ryan Speak At Politico Playbook Interview
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during a Politico interview at the Grand Hyatt on Dec. 15 in Washington DC. Mark Wilson / Getty Images, file

The new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is a punctual man. And now, he’s putting his foot down hard on colleagues who dawdle.

On Wednesday, 137 House members missed a vote strengthening sanctions on Iran because they did not get to the House floor fast enough to cast their vote in the allotted 15 minutes.

“I was shocked,” House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told NBC News, although he added an endorsement of Ryan’s move to close down the voting promptly. “I think it’s great. I am into timeliness.”

The first vote of a series in the House should remain open for 15 minutes, but votes typically run long to accommodate representatives making their way to the chamber. Sometimes votes can stay open for more than 30 minutes.

But Ryan warned members last week that he was no fan of the lax enforcement of the time limits, encouraging members to be on time to cast their votes. (It should be noted that House Speakers cast votes themselves only in rare circumstances.)

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, a former Speaker of the House, told reporters Wednesday she thinks “it’s a great idea to stay within the time” but noted that enforcement of the limits must “be consistent.”

“I think the Speaker is rightfully serious about expeditiously dealing with the votes in a timely fashion,” Pelosi said.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, acknowledged that he missed a vote recently because leadership has been trying to enforce the time rules, saying he has no “ill will” about the new paradigm.

“Paul Ryan is a man of his word,” Meadows told NBC News. “It’s good, you don’t want to be legalistic about it, but certainly having some more firm parameters would be good.”

But some members were unhappy a vote so many had hoped to tout to their constituents was closed before they could weigh in.

“Obviously everybody was upset,” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told NBC News following the vote that dozens of Republicans and Democrats missed.

The bill would prevent the president from lifting sanctions under the Iran nuclear deal for any Iranian bank with known ties to terrorist groups or the country's ballistic missile program – an issue about which many lawmakers are eager to have their say.

After some quick negotiations between Hoyer and a handful of Republican leaders, however, the tardy congressmen got a reprieve, at least this time.

Republican leadership announced there will be a re-vote on the Iran sanctions bill on January 25, when the House returns to session.