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Democrats Force Votes With Eye on Campaigns

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Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is consulting with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (far right) and other Democratic leaders on issues to be included in motions to recommit that the party is offering on the House floor.

House Democrats have launched a floor strategy aimed at forcing freshman Republicans to take tough votes on politically sensitive topics, mirroring a tactic that the GOP deployed when it was in the minority.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) is consulting with her leadership team, including Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.), on how to use a procedural tool known as a motion to recommit to force Republicans to take politically challenging votes.

Under House rules, the minority party is allowed to offer one motion to recommit, which functions much like an amendment, for each piece of legislation as the last step before final passage. With their return to the minority, Pelosi and her leadership team are trying to be more savvy about using the motions to put Republicans on the politically unpopular side of issues that Democrats want to champion ahead of the next election. 

So far, Democrats have offered four such motions this Congress: a proposal to require Members to publicly disclose whether they will accept government health insurance, a measure barring a health care repeal bill from taking effect unless a majority of lawmakers forfeit their government-sponsored health insurance, a proposal to bar companies that outsource jobs from obtaining government contracts and a proposal to require disclosure of foreign campaign contributors. 

The motions “will build thematics that we will keep coming back to,” a Democratic campaign official said.

The campaign official said Democrats’ proposals are aimed at highlighting what they call the hypocrisy of Republican lawmakers accepting taxpayer-funded health care while campaigning to repeal the health care law. This “became part of building the narrative” that Democrats are going to push on the health care front.

Israel acknowledged that Democrats are attempting to mimic the strategy that Republicans used when they were in the minority for the past four years. Republican leaders transformed the use of the motion to recommit into a tool that frequently forced vulnerable Democrats into difficult votes. Even Democrats acknowledge that they didn’t use the tool as effectively the last time they were in the minority.

“The Republican playbook when they were in the minority had three chapters: Chapter 1, go on offense; Chapter 2, just say no; and Chapter 3, don’t lift a finger to help,” Israel said. The only chapter in their playbook that I will use is Chapter 1. We will be aggressive, and we will be on offense.”

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