Top Republicans push back on changes to motions to recommit
Top Republicans in the House are pushing back on Democrats’ calls to make changes to motions to recommit (MTR), a procedural tool used by the minority to alter bills at the eleventh hour on the floor.
Eight such motions backed by the GOP were approved in the last Congress, forcing vulnerable Democrats to take difficult votes on issues ranging from immigration to gun control and allowing Republicans to highlight divisions in the Democratic Party.
Democrats are considering a change in the rules in the next Congress that would require a motion to recommit to win two-thirds support for passage.
Republicans said any effort to change the process is an effort to dismantle the minority party’s long-standing rights.
They note Democrats used MTRs when Republicans held the majority.
“We suspect adopting this change would present legal or constitutional issues for the Democrats," said a document from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) office obtained by The Hill.
"In essence, an amendment offered by the minority party needs two-thirds support to pass on the floor, but an amendment offered by the majority only needs one-half. We challenge you to find any other rules-based governing body in the world that functions that way,” the document said.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) argued that the change would be an attempt to shut down debate on the floor.
“I mean it would be a socialist type exercise to try to shut out even further any dissenting voices on the other side, making it harder to pass a motion to recommit would be that kind of socialist tactic,” he told The Hill in an interview.
MTRs will be even harder for Democrats to defeat in the next Congress without a rules change given their smaller majority.
"I think they know that it's going to be hard to try to completely shut down the minority voices especially when we have a louder voice in terms of votes in the new Congress than we have today, you know — a five-seat majority, and for some period it might be a two-seat majority because she's [Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)] losing a few Democrats that are going to be leaving to go into administrative posts,” Scalise said.
Proponents of altering the MTR argue it’s a necessary change to allow lawmakers to fully understand what they are voting for.
“We do not believe the MTR should be eliminated or fundamentally changed, because we view it as an important tool for the minority party in an otherwise majoritarian institution. In principle, the MTR is worth protecting,” 19 Democratic lawmakers backing the change wrote in a letter to their caucus leaders.
They said the proposed change "would put the MTR on the same plane as a bill considered under suspension of the rules, but would otherwise preserve this important legislative tool of the minority party."