The minority has almost no power in the House of Representatives, but they usually do have the prerogative to force a single uncomfortable procedural vote. These motions leave the majority to choose between voting against something popular, or voting to scuttle or complicate their own agenda. This is how Republicans managed to wrongfoot Democrats on the 9/11 health bill and other issues in the last couple Congresses.
Democrats just offered their first “motion to commit” the new House rules. The goal? To amend the package to force new members to announce whether or not they’ll be taking their government health care.
To wit: “Not later than 15 days after taking the oath of office, a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner shall notify the Clerk of whether that Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner elects to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.”
Republicans voted it down — historically, they’ve been better than Democrats at voting party line against all minority procedural gambits. But for all the pitfalls of the minority, the Dems will have some fun the next two years. They’ve got a lot to work with.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.