Political Maneuvers: How Republicans get Democrats to vote their conscience

Want to understand how things work in DC?  Check out this article from The Speakers Lobby

Republicans have enjoyed two big wins on the House floor in as many weeks. They didn’t pass a package to slash government spending. They didn’t repeal the health care law.  They didn’t undo the government bailout package known as TARP.

No. Republicans forced Democrats to take two tough votes and made the majority Democrats scrap a piece of legislation for another day. This is what counts as victories for the minority in the House. Unlike the Senate, which actually awards the minority party, the majority dominates the House. So it’s significant when Republicans eke out a win.

In their quest to gain control of the House, Republicans have perfected a clever technique to try to cast their counterparts in the worst light possible. And these recent episodes reveal how a creative use of the rules can blow up the process or make the other side take a vote that could come back to haunt them.

Which is precisely what Republicans have done on the two major pieces of legislation in the past two weeks.

On most House bills, the minority is granted what’s called a “motion to recommit,” or “MTR” in Congressional jargon. MTR’s are the bullet that the majority party gives to the minority to alter or sometimes even kill a piece of legislation. In essence, the MTR is a “move” to “recommit” the bill to committee. Often the House deals with a “Motion to Recommit With Instructions.” That means the House could “instruct” a committee to change the bill in certain ways.

Since Democrats seized control of the House in early 2007, Republicans have increasingly used MTR’s to put Democrats in awkward positions. The best example came in March, 2007. Lawmakers debated whether to award the District of Columbia a seat in the House. Republicans concocted a motion to recommit that dealt with firearms. The MTR made many conservative, pro-Second Amendment Democrats jumpy. In that instance, those Democrats had to choose to vote with the Republicans and the firearms proposal or against the philosophies of their districts and side with leadership.

Either way, Republicans had Democrats in a stranglehold.

If those gun-friendly Democrats voted with the Republicans, the MTR blew up the Washington, DC voting rights bill. If Republicans were successful in goading those same Democrats into voting with the leadership, watch out come election time. By crafting a controversial motion to recommit, Republicans had generated a tally where they could document where certain Democrats from vulnerable districts might vote against the right to bear arms. Republicans would then prep election ads that would portray those Democrats as opposing the Second Amendment. They would then display fine print at the bottom of the screen that showed the vote where they voted against guns.

Mindful that their lawmakers could face exposure to these ads, the Democratic leadership yanked the District of Columbia bill off the House floor.

Fast forward to present day.

Much more to read at  Read the Fine Print « The Speakers Lobby.

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