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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.

Pelosi’s office has been running the effort to craft the motions, in informal consultation with members of the Caucus, particularly with those whom she views as having strong messaging skills.

Rep. Robert Andrews said that Pelosi “has asked a number of Members to make recommendations on motions to recommit” and that he is among those she has reached out to.

“And then she assesses what she thinks is best for the Caucus, and she makes the decision,” the New Jersey Democrat said.

When deciding what motion to offer, Andrews said, Democrats “think about whether the motion advances a substantive position” that they support.

“Sure there’s a political assessment,” he said. “But we intend to pursue substantive points with which we agree. For example, we don’t think you should be able to repeal health care for your constituents and keep it for yourself.”

After no Republicans voted Jan. 19 for the Democratic motion to recommit that would have required a majority of Members to waive their government health benefits for the health care repeal to take effect, the DCCC sent an e-mail blast to local media in the districts of GOP freshmen.

 “It’s a clear opportunity to demonstrate the clear differences between Democrats and Republicans, and we will continue to use them for that,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said.

Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who is heading the DCCC’s recruitment efforts this cycle, said the motion to recommit votes would help Democrats’ campaign messaging.

“Everyone is held accountable for these votes,” the Pennsylvania lawmaker said, noting that many of the 84 Republican freshmen came to Congress without a voting record.

“This is their chance to demonstrate to their voters who they stand up for: Will they stand up for their voters or stand up for their leadership only?” Schwartz said.

But Republicans are confident that Democrats’ efforts will have little, if any, electoral effects.

“We didn’t win a single race because of an MTR last year,” a House GOP aide said.

Still, Republicans acknowledge that the most effective way to counter the Democratic assault is to get all of their Members to vote “no.” And they’ve been successful to date, with one exception. Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) voted Wednesday in favor of Democrats’ motion to recommit on a Republican bill ending public funding of presidential campaigns.

Republicans point out that Democrats, meanwhile, have had at least one member of their Caucus vote against three of their four motions to recommit, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), who voted against Democrats’ motion on the health care repeal bill.

Still, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who chaired the DCCC during the past two campaign cycles and is now the ranking member of the Budget Committee, said Democrats would continue to craft motions to recommit that “boil it down to a key issue” that Democrats think works in their favor. The Maryland Democrat said freshmen, in particular, could pay a price.

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