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What Happens When a Key Vote Isn’t So Key

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Geoff Davis had some sharp criticisms for Heritage Action for America earlier this week.

"We don't measure our effectiveness based on quotes from anonymous Republican aides, especially those who would rather pursue political expediency than principled conservative policies," Holler said in a statement. "We'll leave that judgment to our activists. It's worth noting, though, that senior aides typically do not go on the attack against organizations that lack influence."

Indeed, not all Members agree with the dismissal of Heritage Action.

RSC Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) defended Heritage Action and its importance to the conservative movement. "Good conservatives might disagree from time to time, but there's no doubt in my mind that Heritage Action has helped shift the debate rightward this year," Jordan said Wednesday.

"I don't think anyone can deny the value of the information they provide us," Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said. "The research they do is invaluable to conservatives; the messaging they do is invaluable."

In a Sept. 8 "Dear Colleague" letter about his bill to defund the Legal Services Corporation, Rep. Austin Scott (Ga.), who is freshman GOP class president, highlighted Heritage Action's support of the measure in urging his colleagues to co-sign his legislation.

Still, leadership's decision to ignore Heritage Action's key vote and use a simple voice vote to pass the transportation bill Tuesday is remarkable.

Voice votes are rarely used in the sharply divided House and are almost never applied to massive authorization bills like the transportation package. Traditionally, any time an interest group opposed to a measure makes it a so-called key vote, at least one Member will object to using a voice vote to pass the bill, forcing a roll call vote to put lawmakers on the record.

And while no rank-and-file Members raised an objection Tuesday, the decision rankled some conservatives.

In a floor statement, Mulvaney denounced the decision to voice vote the bill.

"I was appalled by the procedure the House used in passing this bill. While I recognize the need to quickly move this bill ... I do not believe that justifies suspending the rules to move a bill that will cost tens of billions of dollars over a six-month period without any opportunity to offer amendments either in the Rules Committee or on the House floor," Mulvaney said.

"While such action does not technically violate our House or Conference rules, it certainly flies in the face of the higher standards those rules and protocols promote," he added.

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