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Past House GOP tactic proves useless to Democrats

By Jim Abrams

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, April 24 2011 12:36 p.m. MDT

Democrats predict they'll have more success as the 2012 election approaches. "It depends on whether the Republican rank and file come to listen to their constituencies," said Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for the House Democratic campaign committee. "Right now they are listening to their leadership."

Republican leaders have explained to their members that Democrats are given opportunities to offer amendments, and that the motions are merely procedural votes on issues where Democrats are trying to score political points.

It wasn't always that way.

In 1909, opponents of autocratic Speaker Joe Cannon, R-Ill., forced a rule change giving priority to an opponent to offer an alternative before a final vote. In 1932 that was changed to give the minority party a last shot.

Democrats increasingly squelched that right in their many decades of controlling the House. When Republicans took over in 1995, they promised that the right to offer a motion to recommit would be honored even as they united in defeating Democratic proposals.

The Democratic return to power in 2007 was accompanied by the continued trend, starting under the Republicans, of limiting the minority's right to offer amendments. The motion to recommit was often the only chance to affect legislation.

"In recent years, and not just under the current majority, the minority has been forced to use the motion to recommit, often in ways that are painful for the majority, to ensure the minority's voice is heard," Ohio Rep. John Boehner, then the minority leader, told the American Enterprise Institute in a speech last September. "And in turn, the majority has responded by conjuring up new ways to shut the minority out even further. It's a cycle of gridlock."

Online:

Congressional Research Service: http://tinyurl.com/3zstryw

Congressional Glossary: http://tinyurl.com/3rftfwh

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