Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

House Democrats Stoke Procedural Fires

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Robert Andrews has helped lead Democrats’ efforts to force issues procedurally.

House Democrats haven't won a single floor vote on a motion to recommit this year, but the defeats suit them just fine.

Winning these votes on the floor is not this minority's stated goal. As one senior Democratic aide said, "MTRs are all political."

Instead of upending Republican bills with the procedural maneuver, Democrats have chosen instead to simply force Republicans to take tough votes on politically sensitive topics that will reappear in the form of 30-second ads during next year's election season.

"We're going to be aggressive, as we have been, on educating voters in districts around the country that their Republican representatives have voted against their interests," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) said in an interview. "I believe these votes will help shape the results in a significant number of districts."

Democrats have offered 59 MTRs on the floor this year, and they haven't picked off more than four Republicans for any one of them. In some instances, Democrats have even lost a few dozen of their own Members on the votes.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has led the effort on MTRs, procedural measures the minority can offer as a last-minute attempt to change the majority's legislation. So far this year, Democrats have offered amendments on everything from cutting off funds for Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" to granting National Public Radio money to broadcast Amber alerts for abducted children.

"We want to point out the differences between us and Republicans on public policy," said Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), a Pelosi confidant who at the beginning of the year offered an MTR that would have banned any Member who opposed the health care reform law from receiving government health benefits.

Procedurally, Democrats have been far more successful this year at defeating bills on suspension. A group of 26 Republicans joined progressive Democrats in an unexpected alliance to sink a USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization bill in February that fell short of the two-thirds support needed for passage. Democrats also temporarily threw the appropriations process into chaos in September by voting down a stopgap funding resolution, which several conservative Republicans also opposed.

While GOP leaders have had difficulty corralling conservatives at times this year, they've mowed down every MTR by maintaining they are irrelevant procedural votes. Not surprisingly, Democrats insist that they are part of a Member's voting record and should be judged by voters back home.

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