Stimulus Package Vote Will Test Republicans’ Political Strategy

  • Testing messaging strategy to draw Democratic votes for bill changes
  • Democrats limited procedural motion to recommit in 117th Congress

House Republicans on Friday forced a vote using a watered-down procedural motion in an effort to put Democrats in an unfavorable political light.

They planned to again attempt to use the motion to recommit Friday evening to stall progress on the coronavirus stimulus package (H.R. 1319), which Democrats are pushing through with little or no Republican support.

House Republicans haven’t given up on using the motion to put Democrats on the spot, and the pair of procedural votes Friday are testing out their newest strategy. While it’s likely to fail, leaders think they can use the slim margin between the parties and some good arguments to hold up legislation — or at least make members take tough votes that may come back in 30-second ads in 2022.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) previewed the evening vote on the motion at the top of a news conference Friday. He proposed redirecting spending in the stimulus package currently going to Bay Area Rapid Transit toward mental health grants for students.

“Today Democrats will have to go on the record: Do they support this money going to Nancy Pelosi’s subway, or will they do the right thing and spend the money on resources of kids who are suffering from school closures because of Covid?” McCarthy said.

Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks during a news conference Friday.

Democrats sought to render the motion to recommit toothless in their rules package (H. Res. 8). It took away the ability to include instructions, which gave the minority party a chance to offer a last-minute amendment to legislation.

Republicans won eight such votes in the 116th Congress — with moderate Democratic votes — including one on whether U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be notified when an undocumented immigrant attempts to buy a gun. When those motions were adopted, the legislation returned immediately with the new language, allowing the House to finish work.

Procedure or Policy?

A motion adopted now would simply send the bill back to the committee of jurisdiction, which would have to meet on it for the legislation to proceed. Democrats would likely oppose such a motion on procedural grounds.

Ahead of the vote on a motion, however, Republicans will lay out a case for what they’d do when the committee met on the legislation, tying a provocative issue to an otherwise symbolic vote.

A memo McCarthy sent to ranking members this week outlined the plan and noted that only five Democrats would need to join Republicans for the motion to be successful.

The initial motion came during a series of votes on a wilderness bill (H.R. 803) that included the GOP-introduced motion to recommit, which the party announced was done in hopes of attaching language to the bill that would reverse executive orders on climate change and the environment. It was rejected, without a single Democratic vote in support.

Democratic leadership is confident the motion to recommit will be less effective in pressuring members to vote without instructions attached.

“A misleading Republican memo doesn’t change that and will not fool House Democrats or their constituents,” said Hope Derrick, spokeswoman for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.). “The Whip operation will continue working hard to keep Democrats united to defeat MTRs and enact our agenda for the people.”

Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), who represents a competitive district and voted for several MTR’s in the last Congress, said it will now be easier for lawmakers like him to vote against motions to recommit.

“It is less of political vote,” he said. “It doesn’t have the same political meaning that it had last term.”

The approach on the motion to recommit is a twist on how the minority party tries to use previous question votes — which essentially mean the House agrees to vote on the matter before it without additional debate — when the House considers the terms of floor debate. Republicans typically say that if the previous question is defeated, they’d modify the rule to consider other legislation, but with little success.

READ MORE: BGOV Bill Summary on H.R. 1319, Coronavirus Stimulus Package

With assistance from Loren Duggan

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at ewilkins@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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