House Democrats jostle behind closed doors.
After Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi saw 26 Democrats join the Republicans for a procedural vote to amend a major universal background check bill this week, she reprimanded her members for A private meeting.
"We are either a team or we are not, and we have to make that decision," she said.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), representative of the Democratic Left, warned of potential political consequences. She told her colleagues that they might put themselves on a list of progressive activists looking for key targets.
House Democrats are determined to present a unified front, at the forefront of anti-Trump resistance. Pelosi is renowned for its ability to keep unified democrats when it needs to. It has just won a stalemate with President Donald Trump, now its even more moderate members against the $ 5.7 billion request for a border wall. Now that Congress has moved on, the background check has revealed how difficult it would be to keep Democrats – especially new members of competitive districts – against Republicans.
The heart of this struggle lies in a mysterious yet important procedural maneuver called the re-engagement motion, which allows the minority to impose amendments to a bill. Disagreement over how to vote on these motions rocked the House's democratic conference.
According to various reports, Pelosi wants to take a tougher stance on the procedural votes that allow Democrats to join the Republicans, but his deputies, Steny Hoyer (MD) and Jim Clyburn (SC), wanted to give up -pass members of the most difficult districts.
The drama shows how difficult Pelosi's job of keeping a group of Democrats of diverse ideology will be. Democrats are finding it increasingly difficult to assume their new role of majority.
What is it? A "re-engagement motion", and why is it so serious?
A re-engagement motion is a privileged motion for the minority in the House – Republicans these days – giving them the opportunity to amend a bill in the House when otherwise they have very little influence in the majority chamber. The minority usually proposes such a motion every time a bill is submitted to a vote in the assembly, but historically, they almost always fail because the majority will vote against the motion.
The procedural mysteries have degenerated into a major story for two reasons, it seems: the Republicans are very aggressive and a bit clever in their motions, and Green House Democrats have received mixed signals from leaders about how they should vote these motions. .
It's fair to ask how much it really matters. House Democrats have still overwhelmingly voted for the final adoption of the gun control bill and most Republicans still have not voted for the bill. The new provision is a footnote in the bill and could be deleted in the unlikely event that the Senate adopts its own version.
Nevertheless, universal background checks were supposed to be a triumphant moment for House Democrats – an ambitious bill, on an issue close to their hearts, in which they contrast sharply with the Republicans – but this procedural vagueness eventually overshadowed the problem.
The Republicans, as they usually do, have proposed re-enacting the background check bill. This was intended to force House Democrats to vote on the opportunity to declare undocumented immigrants to ICE if they were trying to buy a firearm. More than two dozen House Democrats, almost all new to Congress, voted in favor and the motion was passed.
This had no effect on the final vote. The background check bill has been passed by almost every Democrat and a few Republicans. But for the Democratic left, the vote has become uncomfortable. Many left-wing members, like Ocasio-Cortez, wish to abolish ICE and yet, because of their colleagues' support for the Republican motion, they had to vote for a bill that empowers the ICE. 39; agency. And the image that came out of the vote was that Republican leaders feared for their sneaky victory, as it was, and that the Democrats were arguing in the House and ranting out of the room. Not the visual democrats were looking for it.
The problem had been brewing for weeks. Politico reported earlier this month that these procedural votes were becoming a headache for Pelosi; Democrats have continued to lose some of their members to the benefit of Republicans. The Democrats have actually decided to massively support a Republican motion, condemning anti-Semitism over an otherwise unrelated bill, a few weeks ago, the first successful motion to renew the commitment since 2010.
Matthew Green, a professor at the Catholic University, illustrates the worsening problem:
Democrats are really trying to do it together
According to various reports and a Democratic Assistant with whom I spoke, re-engagement motions became a problem, as Hoyer, the majority leader, and Clyburn, the majority whip, were more willing to give a margin members wishing to vote with the GOP. .
Here's how the Washington Post summarized the tension:
Behind the scenes, according to several Democratic aides, tensions have emerged between Pelosi – who sees these procedural votes as something that Democrats should rarely support – and Hoyer and Clyburn, who want to give members enough leeway to join. Republicans as long as their votes permit. do not change the final result.
"Mr. Hoyer thinks that members should vote in their districts," said Mariel Saez, spokesman for Hoyer.
The senior adviser said that giving free passes to some members also created resentment among other lawmakers, who felt that difficult elections were being prepared.
"That's why you should never get into it," said the assistant. "Vote with them all [motion to recommit] will not prevent you from getting a 30-second ad. "
Pelosi relied on the same logic in his comments to the Democratic caucus on Thursday: "For those who think they must follow a certain path, understand the pressure you put on your colleagues."
What did we learn from all this? We learned that House Democrats were always on the same page and that the Republicans were surprisingly good at putting the new Democrats on the ballot with these procedural votes. We learned that there was dissension within the Democratic Party on how to deal with difficult votes like this: some leaders seem to sympathize with swing district lawmakers who want to take votes to strengthen their bipartisan authority. Others see it as a false promise, because the Republicans will still attack the Democrats, no matter how they voted on a point of order.
It also reminds that this majority in the House of Democrats could prove a little more difficult to handle for leadership. Some of these members came to Washington to voice their opposition to the current Democratic leadership, which puts Pelosi in a more difficult position, especially as she reported that at a date to be determined, her term as director was to end. end.
But she has the left-wing, personified by Ocasio-Cortez, on her side on this issue – especially with the threat of major challenges behind her. It may be that after the recent, in-camera, closed meeting, we no longer heard of any tension about these procedural votes. Just like before.
The senior advisor with whom I spoke said that this could also be one of the issues that the new Congressional Modernization Committee could look into: Do these procedural maneuvers really deserve to be addressed? To be watched? Republicans can feast on their tactical ingenuity, while the Democrats will strive to put the tongs on for good.