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As Schoolhouse Rock taught us, legislation is rarely perfect–especially when a bill is first introduced.

That’s why amendments are made throughout the process on Capitol Hill–from the time of drafting, to marking-up in committees, to passage out of the House of Representatives. And at each step, the majority party has the power to determine which amendments from which members actually receive a vote.

However, for over a century, the House of Representatives has always provided the minority party with one final chance to amend a bill before it is passed by the House — known as the Motion to Recommit (MTR).

Back in 1909, Representative John Fitzgerald stated the purpose of this last amendment was to ensure the minority could “have a vote upon its position upon great public questions”–a worthy goal indeed.

It is important to remind ourselves that the minority party is not simply a collection of people with different political ideas. They represent the voices of tens of millions of Americans.

Nevertheless, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and Rules Chairman McGovern are now prepared to invoke the nuclear option and effectively eliminate the only tool that has been safeguarded for the minority for centuries.

In so doing, they will be censoring the voices of duly elected representatives and the millions of constituents we represent–all in a sad attempt to protect their careers and hold onto their political power.

With that in mind, let’s fact check some of the claims surrounding the MTR and demonstrate why the Democrats’ decision is so destructive to the institution of Congress moving forward.


CLAIM: They “Rarely succeed”

Some will argue that MTRs are no longer useful, as they rarely pass on the floor.

FACT CHECK: This is 100% false.

In the last two years, eight MTRs offered by Republicans were adopted by a majority vote of the House on a total of 78 rule bills.

In other words, on over 10 percent of the bills brought forward by the Democrat majority, a bipartisan majority believed they needed to be improved in some way.

In the old days, this type of regular order would be lauded as “the House working it’s will.” Apparently House Democrats no longer share this view and are too afraid to actually debate the ideas of House Republicans in a meaningful way.


CLAIM: The MTR is a “Political stunt”

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has called the MTR a “political stunt.”

FACT CHECK: This is 100% false. 

For example, the MTR on H.R. 2, the Democrats’ infrastructure bill, mirrored an amendment that was adopted in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee 62-1. 62-1! The amendment stated that funds in the bill could not go to state-owned enterprises of China, a position even Joe Biden campaigned on.

However, when Democrats combined the Transportation and Infrastructure section of the bill with legislation produced by other committees, they failed to extend this provision to cover the entirety of the legislation.

As such, Republicans thought it was only reasonable to attach this hugely bipartisan measure to the final bill — which we did through our Motion to Recommit.

When Democrats were presented the opportunity to approve this amendment, Chairman Peter DeFazio switched his position, argued against prohibiting U.S. funds from being sent to firms controlled by the Chinese government, and voted no on the floor.

Far from being a stunt, this example shows how the MTR is a critical stop-gap to highlight flaws in a bill and fix such bad legislation before it proceeds to the Senate.


CLAIM: Members of Congress have “just five minutes to read it.”

News outlet POLITICO recently reported on the Democrats’ deliberations to blow up the MTR. The report gave credence to a common excuse used to paint the MTR as an unserious or unimportant legislative procedure.

It stated, “complicating matters, lawmakers have just five minutes to read the GOP’s amendment and decide how to vote, giving Democrats little time to prepare a rebuttal.

FACT CHECK: This is 100% false.

Given that the MTR is the final amendment to a bill, it follows that it must be offered last, after all other amendments have either been adopted or disposed of. But Clause 1(c) of Rule XIX grants the Speaker the ability to schedule the vote on an MTR that’s been debated whenever she chooses — be it an hour later or days later.

To repeat: the Speaker decides when the vote on the MTR occurs, not the minority.

Democrats recently utilized this postponement authority during consideration of the MORE Act on December 4. The House debated the MTR, locked in the vote, and postponed it. The vote sequence then began with a suspension vote, followed by votes on MTR and Passage, thereby giving all Members over an hour to digest and process the minority party’s simple one sentence amendment.

If anything, it could be assumed that Speaker Pelosi intentionally neglects using the postponement option because the longer Democrats members have to consider the MTR, the more time they have to talk themselves into voting yes.

Additionally, for those who argue that five minutes per side is not sufficient to debate such a weight amendment, we have great news! Clause 2(c) of Rule XIX states: “On demand of the floor manager for the majority, it shall be in order to debate the motion for one hour equally divided and controlled by the proponent and an opponent.”

That’s right: existing House rules permit the majority to extend the time for debate on an MTR from 5 minutes per side to a full hour, which should be plenty if the concern is truly giving members ample time to understand what an amendment does. Of course, by now you should understand that careful deliberation and debate is not the aim of this current Democrat Majority.


CLAIM: The MTR amounts to simply “gotcha votes”

Representative Stephanie Murphy recently penned a letter in which she complained that “the text of the MTR is often lengthy, poorly drafted, and/or purposefully confusing. The minority party’s short summary of the MTR is usually misleading or incomplete.”

FACT CHECK: This is 100% false.

Regarding length, over 60% of the motions to recommit offered in the 116th Congress were less than one page long (and often only one paragraph long). Over 82% were fewer than two pages long.

The only thing “poorly drafted” and “purposefully confusing” is Rep. Murphy’s letter, as every single motion to recommit in the 116th was drafted by professional House Legislative Counsel, germane to the underlying bill, and compliant with the same budgetary and other procedural requirements that any amendment submitted to the Rules Committee must meet to be made in order.


CLAIM: Speaker Pelosi is a “Respecter” of minority rights.

At one time, Speaker Pelosi shared many of the beliefs outlined above. As minority leader, she even compared the MTR to a matter of “freedom of speech on the floor of the House of Representatives.” And as Speaker, this self-described “respecter” of minority rights promised to uphold them.

Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern was even more direct. In September 2018, he promised that, “if Democrats are trusted with the majority, we will have a more accommodating process. Ideas will be allowed to come forward.”

FACT CHECK: This is 100% false.

Not only are they abandoning their word, this proposed change to the Motion to Recommit amounts to a tyrannical power grab by the Democrats, one that will cause permanent damage to the constitutional purpose of the House.

Instead of silencing dissent, Congress should stand by the American tradition of free and open debate in the legislative process.

After all, there is no such thing as a permanent majority in Congress.

We understand Democrats suffered a series of humbling defeats in November and are desperate to insulate themselves from criticism and protect their political future. But that’s no excuse for silencing the voices of the American people.

If they make the reckless decision to limit the rights of the minority, they will regret it. In fact, if history is any guide, they will probably regret it much sooner than they think.

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